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LegalGems
LegalGems, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 7440
Experience:  Private Practice; Elder Law Attorney; Estate Planning; Attorney Mentor
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We got a letter in april 2015 stating that we were in line

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we got a letter in april 2015 stating that we were in line for an inheritance and that is we signed to paperwork and no one objected by May 15, 2015, the will would be admitted into probate. We have never heard from the attorney again and there has been nothing done since then. He does not answer our emails and only returned a call one time. His staff recommended that we get a different attorney but we didn't hire him. I don't think I have much say about what happens next. We don't even know how much the inheritance is. However, at this point, it is just the principal of the whole thing that this lawyer is not doing anything. The odd thing about NY is we can't seem to see the probate progress online. I know you can in other states. We have to call probate and the guy there always tells us to get a new attorney or file the paperwork ourselves. There are 14 people on the genealogy report. We are not in a position to take charge of this. It seems very strange.

Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
is this a private post? I can give you more info if it is, I didn't want it on the internet in public.

I am sorry to hear this;

have you verified with the court clerk that the probate has been opened? The court clerk can answer this over the phone, otherwise one would need to go to the clerk's office and check the files.

Not all states/counties/districts have online access- it varies by locale.

Did the letter state that probate was being opened, or was already opened?

This is not a private post-it is a public forum.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
the probate is open. however, nothing has been done with it since August 2015 and the probate clerk said filings were going to have to be redone because they would expire. the clerk is not the most patient person in the world. but, he recommended a new atty as well. does this atty have any responsibility to do anything? it is most odd.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
oh, wait, i just called probate and the clerk said that a notice of settlement was filed 9.27.16. he said that it meant that they were starting all over again. Ugh. I have no idea what these filings mean and then internet is not very helpful.

A settlement of an estate means that it has been wrapped up (for example, see here)

Settlement means the estate has been settled- i.e. the personal representative (PR) gathered assets, paid creditors, and disbursed the remaining assets to the heirs per the will/intestate succession.

The PR has a fiduciary duty to the heirs. A fiduciary duty means that the person in the fiduciary capacity owes a duty to the other person- and that the fiduciary must act in good faith, with the best intentions, to preserve any property that is at issue. Failure to act in this manner (essentially, a trust/guardian) is considered a "breach" and can result in:
1. removal of the fiduciary
2. sanctions (ie fines, award of attorney fees, etc)
3. damages (economic liability for the damages suffered by the party to whom the duty was owed)

If one feels they were entitled to an inheritance (and the letter indicating that would be reason to expect that) and it was not received, it would be best to hire an attorney to review the documents to find out what exactly happened- i.e. how the estate was disbursed. If the fiduciary was in breach, the fiduciary can be sued, and may be required to restore the money to the estate so it can be properly disbursed.

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Information provided is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a personal attorney is always recommended so your particular facts may be considered. Thank you and take care.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thanks. I will call tomorrow and see if it has been settled and verify that the probate clerk told me the correct thing. It is strange because as far as I knew the next step was to publish so that people could collect on it. I don't think that happened. Hmmmm. Okay, I will be back tomorrow morning.

Yes, that is correct; the estate rep has a duty to keep all parties informed, and also to notify creditors, etc. So if they failed to comply with the fiduciary requirements, the rep can actually be liable for any damage suffered by the estate (and thus the heirs, creditors, etc).

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