Erie County Surrogate Barbara Howe found that she lacked jurisdiction to compel an accounting by a successor guardian who had volunteered to administer a custodial account left for the benefit of the petitioner by his grandfather. In Re Gold is reported at 879 N.Y.S.2d 795. While the case itself is no more than a family food fight over what happened to less than five thousand dollars after a family member volunteered to handle the account when the petitioner’s grandmother (the original guardian) passed away, it brings to light an interesting conflict in the law .
EPTL 7-6.19 permits the legal guardian of a minor over the age of 14 (in addition to a family member or the donor of the account or the donor’s legal representative) to petition to compel an accounting by the custodian of the account. Contrast this with EPTL7-6.1(k)’s definition of a "minor" as one who has not attained the age of 21. Since the petitioner was over the age of 21, the court found that it lacked the jurisdiction to compel the accounting inasmuch as the same section of the law defines "court" as either "the supreme court or the surrogate’s court having jurisdiction over the minor"(emphasis added by the court).
In addition to finding that she had no jurisdiction over the matter where the petitioner was no longer a minor, she also noted that the surrogate’s court’s jurisdiction relates to matters affecting the estates of decedents and not independent matters between living persons. The facts and circumstances of this matter in no way affected the decedent of the administration of his estate.
The consolation prize here is that the youthful petitioner still has a remedy to torture his hapless relative by bringing an action in a court of competent jurisdiction for a claim other than an accounting (e.g., conversion).