Pro Se Proceedings Advice after Pappas v. Phillip Morris Inc.

In February 2019. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case of Pappas v. Phillip Morris, in which the plaintiff pursued Connecticut state law liability claim on behalf of her deceased husband’s estate. The district court previously dismissed some of the plaintiff’s claim on the basis that Connecticut did not allow the plaintiff to represent the estate of her husband pro se.


The conflict of the case, however, concerned Connecticut and federal law which when applied had different results to whether the plaintiff would be allowed to represent the estate pro se.


New York Pro Se Estate Lawsuits


In the state of New York, it is a general that people who are not attorneys are allowed to represent their own interests in a court of law, which is also referred to as proceeding pro se. These regulations, however, only apply in situations where a person represents their own interests rather than the interests of others. As a result, pro se regulations are not allowed when a person is an executor or administrator. As a result, a person involved in an estate proceeding appears on behalf of all people who are interested in the estate rather than the deceased individual. Administrators, executors, and trustees in New York initiate proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court, which handles a number of different matters including administration proceedings and probate.


Because navigating issues in Surrogate’s Court are often particular complex, it is a wise idea to make sure that you retain the assistance of the best estate planning lawyer that you can find to navigate these matters.


Important New York Cases regarding Pro Se Proceeding


There have been a number of  New York case laws interpreting the nature of pro see proceeding. In the Matter of Van Patten, the New York County Surrogate’s Court heard a case in which a non-attorney executor of an estate initiated a lawsuit based on objections to a trustee’s accounting methods. The court in Van Patten subsequently found that an executor is unable to proceed in these situations without the representation of an attorney because an executor has the responsibility of representing all interested parties to an estate proceeding.


Another important pro se case heard by New York courts is In the Matter of Calabrese, in which the Kings County Surrogate’s Court heard a matter concerning a non-attorney administrator of an estate who had filed a petition asking that restrictions in her letters of administration be removed so that the administrator could sell real property. The court in this case found that the administrator was a “nominal party” to litigation and that the true parties who had an interest in the estate were the beneficiaries, which the administrator could not admit. As a result of this finding, the court ordered the petition be dismissed unless the administration retain the assistance of a lawyer.


Contact a Knowledgeable Estate Planning

If you have questions or concerns about the estate planning process, you should not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule an initial free consultation.

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