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In re Judicial Settlement of the Final Account of Manufacturers & Traders Trust Co.

NEW YORK SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FOURTH DEPARTMENT


April 30, 2010

IN THE MATTER OF THE JUDICIAL SETTLEMENT OF THE FINAL ACCOUNT OF MANUFACTURERS AND TRADERS TRUST COMPANY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT, AS EXECUTOR OF JOHN CLARKE ADAMS, DECEASED.
PETER ADAMS ET AL., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TESTAMENTARY TRUSTEES OF THEIR CHILDREN ARMAND ADAMS AND ANOTHER, ET AL., APPELLANTS-RESPONDENTS.

Appeals and cross appeal from an order of the Surrogate's Court, Onondaga County (Peter N. Wells, S.), entered December 17, 2008. The order, among other things, denied that part of respondents' motion for an award of counsel fees.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

As corrected through Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It is hereby ordered that said cross appeal is unanimously dismissed and the order is otherwise affirmed without costs.

Memorandum

Petitioner commenced this proceeding as the executor of decedent's estate seeking approval of its account. Respondents, the beneficiaries of the estate, filed various objections. Following a trial, Surrogate's Court concluded, inter alia, that petitioner was negligent in its fiduciary duty by failing to discover certain assets of the estate consisting of a block of IBM stock, and the Surrogate imposed a surcharge for petitioner's failure to marshal the estate assets and sell that stock. Respondents thereafter moved for, inter alia, an award of counsel fees, and the Surrogate refused to award such fees. Although it is well settled that a Surrogate has the discretion to order a fiduciary to pay counsel fees (see generally Matter of Garvin, 256 NY 518, 521 [1931]; Matter of Manufacturers & Traders Trust Co., 66 AD3d 1377, 1380-1381 [2009]; Matter of Birnbaum v Birnbaum, 157 AD2d 177, 191 [1990]), here, the Surrogate did not abuse his discretion in refusing to award counsel fees based on his conclusion that there was no evidence of bad faith, fraud, self-dealing or theft (see Matter of Saxton, 274 AD2d 110, 121 [2000]). We further conclude, based on the colloquy during oral arguments before the Surrogate, that he was aware that he had the discretion to order petitioner to pay counsel fees. In light of our determination, we dismiss petitioner's cross appeal as moot.

Present: Martoche, J.P., Centra, Fahey, Peradotto and Pine, JJ.

20100430

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