Estate of LaVacca

DUTCHESS COUNTY
Trusts and Estates

, New York Law Journal

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Justice James Pagones

Administrator sought the court's advice and direction. The estate consisted of two pieces of real property—decedent's residence and commercial real property. Decedent entered into a contract to sell the commercial property, restaurant and assets, but died before title closing occurred. The purchaser discovered tax liens and judgments on the property. The former residence was encumbered by two mortgages whose combined balance exceeded the current market value. Administrator asked the court to set aside the liens so the commercial property could be sold, directing him to retain the sale proceeds after paying closing costs and expenses, and directing payment of the estate's debts. The court declined to substitute its judgment for the administrator's, stating the record did not demonstrate the required "extraordinary circumstances" warranting such relief. The court ruled administrator must exercise the prudence and judgment required of his fiduciary office. Further, the court stated Estates, Powers and Trusts Law §11-1.1 set forth broad powers enabling a fiduciary to administer an estate, and the court was loathe to substitute its judgment for his, noting Surrogate's Court Procedure Act §1881 provided guidance on which claims should be paid first in the administration of the estate.

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