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Bronx Probate Court

When someone passes away, the probate court is responsible for ensuring that the decedent’s affairs are settled in an orderly fashion. In New York, probate proceedings are held in the Surrogate’s Court. If the decedent has a will, the proceeding to settle his (or her) affairs is referred to probate administration, while if the decedent passes away without a valid will, the proceeding is referred to as estate administration. In both cases the goal of the administration is to ensure that your property goes to the appropriate people. If there is a will, then the decedent’s property goes to the beneficiaries named in the will. If there is not a will, then the decedent’s property goes to the decedent’s next of kin. In addition, the probate court is there to ensure that the decedent’s debts are paid. If you have questions related to the administration process with respect to a loved one’s estate, contact a Bronx probate court lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.

Process of estate administration
  • Petition to open estate. The process of estate administration begins when someone, usually the executor named in the will, files a Petition for Probate along with the will and the death certificate with the Surrogate’s Court in the county of the decedent’s primary residences. The judge will review the will admit it to probate if it appears to be valid. However, interested parties have the right to challenge the validity of a will by filing an objection with the Surrogate’s Court.

    The Petition for Probate will also include a request that the judge issue Letters Testamentary formally appointing the executor who was named in the will.

    If the decedent did not make a will, then someone, usually a family member, must petition the court to begin the estate administration process. The person who the court issues Letters Testamentary to in the absence of a will is referred to as the estate administrator.

    As a Bronx probate court lawyer will explain, whether the person petition the court for the issuing of Letters Testamentary is the executor named in the will or not, the judge will not issue Letters if he (or she) concludes that the petitioner is not qualified for the position. Once the Letters are issued, the person has the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.

  • Assets. Once the Letters have been issued, the administrator must marshal estate assets and determine the value of the estate. This step is critical as both paying estate debts and distributing assets depends on their being sufficient assets to do so. It is important to understand that only probate assets are subject to probate. Generally speaking, assets that are part of a decedent’s probate estate include property that he (or she) individually owned. Property that is not part of the probate estate includes property that has a beneficiary designation, that is co-owned with others as joint tenants with right of survivorship, and property held in trust.
  • Pay estate debts. The Surrogate’s Court is very concerned that debts of the decedent are paid prior to the distribution of assets to beneficiaries or heirs. Creditors only have a short period of time to file claims. The administrator is required to pay valid claims out of estate assets. However, the administrator is not personally liable for claims filed by creditors that are filed after the deadline. The administrator will also accrue expenses related to managing the estate. Such expenses may include attorney’s fees, insurance expenses, and other similar expenses. These expenses must also be paid out of estate assets.
  • Distribute estate property. Once the deadline for creditor’s claims has passed, and all valid and timely claims have been paid, the Surrogate’s Court will give the administrator permission to distribute assets. If the decedent had a will, the executor will distribute the assets based on the terms of the will. If the decedent did not have a will, the estate administrator will distribute the assets to the decedent’s heirs based on the rules of intestate succession.
Intestate succession

A decedent’s estate will have to go through the Surrogate’s Court administration process whether or not the decedent had a will. One of the main differences in the administration process is that without a will, the estate is distributed based on intestate succession. In New York the intestate succession rules are very detailed. To learn the details, contact an experienced probate court attorney serving the Bronx. In general, under intestate succession, a decedent’s legal heirs are his or her surviving spouse and children. In the absence of either a surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, the intestate succession statute details who would be next in line to inherit.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

The administration of an estate can take many unexpected turns, causing the process to take much longer and causing the process to be much more costly to the estate. However, with the help of an experienced probate court lawyer in the Bronx, the impact of complications on the process can be minimized. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing estate administrators, executors, beneficiaries, heirs, and other interested parties in matters before the New York Surrogate’s Court. We have the knowledge, resources, and experience to help. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.

Client Reviews
Mr. Bilkis handled both my father and mother's estate issues through very difficult times he was compassionate kind and understanding. In fact the whole firm showed great empathy. Despite the emotional hard time we were having that quickly and efficiently handle all the matters that were necessary to get us the result we desired. Can't recommend them enough. B.B.
From the very first phone call to Stephen Bilkis' office, the staff was extremely polite and helpful in assisting me. Mr. Bilkis was honest and upfront with me from the beginning in what he projected the outcome of my case would be; in the end we got better results than either of us anticipated. He was very genuine and compassionate in understanding my situation and how this legal matter could effect not only myself but my family as well. I highly recommend this law firm and will most definitely continue using them for any future legal needs. Jarrett
Stephen has handled numerous estate matters, criminal matters and family court matters effectively and with a goal-oriented approach. He gets great results and is a results-oriented attorney. Dustin