and Your Family
Long Island Probate Court
The probate courts in New York, called the Surrogate’s Courts, are responsible for handling a wide range of cases related to estates, children, seniors, and persons with disabilities. This includes probating wills and the administration of estates, issues related to testamentary and inter vivos trusts, awarding and overseeing guardianships, and handling adoptions. Because of the sensitive nature of the cases handled by the Surrogate’s Court, it is important that your interests are represented by a skilled Long Island probate court lawyer who has both experience and compassion.Types of Surrogate’s Court cases
- Estate administration. When a person who owns probate property passes away, the Surrogate’s Courts oversee the transfer of his (or her) property. Oftentimes the distribution of the decedent’s property is carried out according to the decedent’s wishes as stated in his will. However, in many other cases there is no will. In such cases, property distribution is based on the intestate laws of New York. An administrator is responsible for setting a decedent’s estate. If the person left a will, the administrator is the executor named in the will. Otherwise, the court will appoint a qualified person to serve as the estate administrator. In addition, the Surrogate’s Courts ensure that the debt owed by the decedent, the funeral expenses, taxes owed, and expenses related to the administration of the estate are paid before the property in the estate is distributed. Estate administration will take at least 7 months. However, as a skilled Long Island probate court lawyer will explain, in cases where the estate has a value of less than $30,000, there is a small estate administration process that allows for a much quicker, less expensive, and less complicated administration.
- Trusts. Like a will, a trust is another type of estate document that allows for the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. Unlike a will, a trust can be created and used during the lifetime of the person who creates the trust. Trusts that are created during the creator’s lifetime is called a living trust, while a trust that is created by the creator’s will after his or her death, is referred to as a testamentary trust. All trusts involve an agreement among the creator of the trust, trustee and the beneficiary. The trustee is the person responsible for managing the trust, and the beneficiary is the person or persons (or entities) who benefit from the trust property. While the assets of a living trust that was funded prior to the death of its creator do not go through probate and are not under the continuing jurisdiction of the Surrogate’s Court, if there are disputes or issues related to the trust, they are resolved by the Surrogate’s Court. A testamentary trust is funded by estate assets after they go through probate. Thus, testamentary trust assets do not avoid probate.
- Guardianships. The Surrogate’s Court has jurisdiction over guardianship cases related to minors as well as individuals who are mentally incompetent. The jurisdiction is concurrent with Family Court. In New York, a person under the age of 18 is a minor. A guardian is someone who is appointed by the court and given the legal duty to take care of the minor, or to take care of the minor’s assets. There are two types of guardians: guardian of the person and guardian of the property or estate of the minor. As an experienced probate court attorney in Long Island will explain, one person can fill both roles, or the different people can be appointed. For example, the parents of 23 year old Zach and 16 year old Henry were killed in a car accident. Their substantial estate was left to Zach and Henry. The Surrogate’s Court appointed Zach to be guardian of the person of Henry, while it named a 60 year old Aunt to be guardian of Henry’s estate.
- Adoptions. The Surrogate’s Court also has jurisdiction over adoptions concurrent with Family Court. This includes infant adoptions, step parent adoptions, grandparent (family) adoptions, adult adoptions, and foreign adoptions.
When a case ends up in the Surrogate’s Court, it is typically due to an emotional event. To ensure that your interests are protected, it is important that you are represented by someone who not only has significant experience representing clients in matters before the New York Surrogate’s Court, but also that you are represented by someone who will handle your case with compassion and understanding. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience successfully representing clients with skill, compassion and care in complex matters before the New York Surrogate’s Court. We are here to help. Contact a probate court attorney serving Long Island at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Long Island, Westchester County, Suffolk County, Nassau County, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, and Manhattan.