Challenging an Accounting

by Albert Gurevich on June 30, 2013

Any interested party to a Long Island estate may contest an accounting by an executor, administrator, guardian or trustee of a Long Island estate by filing the objections in writing with the Nassau County or Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court. The objections must be served upon the party responsible for preparing the accounting or the party’s attorney.

When making an accounting challenge, the beneficiary or interested party must have sufficient grounds showing that the accounting was inaccurate or incomplete or the fiduciary mismanaged the funds. The fiduciary must then defend the challenge by showing that an accounting was reasonable, just, in the best interested of the estate and that fiduciary acted in good faith and fulfilled the fiduciary’s duty of loyalty to the estate and other fiduciary duties.

Since Long Island accounting changes can be complex, it is recommended that you hire a Long Island estate ligation attorney to represent you.

Examples of Estate Accounting Challenges
When making estate accounting challenges, beneficiaries or other interested parties will typically argue that a payment of expenses was too much, there was an accounting error or mistake, the fiduciary mismanaged funds, the fiduciary made a bad business decision or received self-gain. You cannot simply make an accounting challenge because you don’t like the fiduciary or you are unhappy because market values went down and your mother’s house sold for less than you anticipated it would. You must have legal sufficient cause to make an accounting. Your Long Island estate litigation attorney can review the accounting and advise you whether you have sufficient evidence to move forward with an accounting challenge.

Eventually, if the accounting is proven to be defective, the fiduciary can be removed. Click here to read about reasons for removing a fiduciary.

Filing the Objections with the Court
An accounting challenge regarding a Long Island estate must be made by filing the petition with the Nassau County or Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court. The court will review the evidence and hear testimony from witnesses, expert witnesses and other interested parties as well as an explanation from the fiduciary to determine whether the fiduciary breached his or her fiduciary duty. If the court determines that there was a breach, then the court has the jurisdiction to appoint a new fiduciary.

Avoiding Accounting Challenges
Estate challenges can cause delays in the beneficiaries receiving their inheritances and can be very emotional and costly. One way an estate can avoid accounting challenges, is for the fiduciary to work with an experienced Long Island probate and estate attorney. A Long Island estate attorney can assist the fiduciary/executor/personal representative with the preparation of inventories and accountings and review the accountings to make sure that they are properly prepared. The attorney will also make sure that all court procedures are followed and filing deadlines are met, will help resolve any disputes that may arise between the beneficiaries and the fiduciary/ personal representative, or amongst the beneficiaries or other interested parties to avoid estate litigation matters. This way the heirs and beneficiaries will receive their inheritances in an efficient and timely manner and the estate can be wind up and closed quicker.

If you wish to speak to a Long Island estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (516) 777-0647.

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