Long Island Probate
Probate is the judicial process during which a last will and testament is “proved” and accepted as the valid true will of the decedent. In New York the process is handled before the New York Surrogate’s Court. Probate is the first step in the administration of an estate that ultimately results in the distribution of the decedent’s assets based on the terms of the will. The process of administration of an estate based on a will is referred to as probate administration, and is commonly also simply called “probate.” The Long Island probate lawyers at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over 20 years of experience skillfully representing clients in complex estate matters including probate litigation. We are here to help you through this challenging time.Steps in probate
Probate is initiated when the executor named in the will files the decedent’s will with the Surrogate’s Court in the county in which the testator lived at the time of his death. The executor will also request that the court formally appoint him (or her) as the executor, giving him authority to act on behalf of the estate. Once the will has been validated and the executor appointed, it is the executor’s responsibility to perform the following steps.
- Gathering your assets. The executor must determine the assets that make up the estate. This may include financial accounts, real estate, and person property. Each asset must be appraised so that the executor understands the total value of the estate.
- Paying your bills. The executor must also pay estate bills from estate assets. This is why it is critical to know how much is available to pay estate bills. If there are not sufficient assets to pay estate debts, then the executor may need to sell estate assets. Estate debts may include the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, debts the decedent owed at the time of his death, claims filed against the estate, and expenses related to the administration of the estate such as attorney’s fees, court fees, and executor’s fees. Those who have claims against the estate must file them within the 7 months after the executor is appointed. After the 7 month period, if the claim is valid, it may still get paid. However, as a Long Island probate lawyer will explain, there may not be assets left in the estate to pay the claim, forcing the claimant to attempt to collect from the distributee.
- Distributing your assets. Once estate debts are paid the executor must use the reaming assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. This is often a straightforward process, but can be complicated by disputes among beneficiaries, hard-to-find beneficiaries, beneficiaries who predecease the testator, and insufficient assets.
While all estates must go through probate, if the estate has a value of less than $30,000, then it may be eligible for a simplified administration process using a “Small estate affidavit.” This process is sometimes referred to as summary probate and involves small estate settlement with probate court administration. The process involves filing the will, death certificate and small estate affidavit with the Surrogate’s Court stating the value of the probate estate. If the court agrees that the estate qualifies for summary probate, the court will allow the assets to be distributed. As a probate attorney in Long Island will explain, while summary probate is a relatively quick, uncomplicated process, it is important to understand how to determine the value of the estate.Lack of a will
The consequence of not having a valid will when you pass away is that your property will not go to the beneficiaries of your choosing. Instead, the State of New York will decide who gets your property. As a result, there may be people who you really want to receive part of your estate who do not. There may also be people who receive part of your estate who you would have left out of your will. In other words, without a will you give control over what happens to your property.
However, the absence of a will does not mean that your estate avoids administration. While there is no will to probate, your estate still must be settled and your property distributed. The process is referred to as estate administration. Instead of it being managed by the executor you name in your will, it is managed by an estate administrator appointed by the Surrogate’s Court. Ultimately, the assets will be distributed to your next of kin based on the rules of intestate succession.
Under intestate succession your property will go to you surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren if you have any. Otherwise, it will go to your parents, siblings, and other relatives, based on an order for priority.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
Probate can be complicated and occurs during a very difficult time. When problems and questions develop during probate, it is important that you contact an experienced probate attorney serving Long Island who will handle your case with skill and compassion. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience helping executors, beneficiaries, and heirs settle complex estate matters and bring closure to the family. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Bronx, and Westchester County.