and Your Family
New York Probate Attorney
When you pass a way, in the midst of grieving your loved ones will also have to think about unsettled issues related to your estate. The legal process during your estate will be settled and distributed is known as probate. Legally, your estate will have to be disposed of in a certain way. Your assets will have to be accounted for and valuated, and the debts of your estate will have to be paid. Finally, you assets will be distributed to your beneficiaries or heirs. Depending on a number of factors, probate can be quite lengthy and complicated. However, there are actions you can take through careful estate planning to help ensure that your wishes are fulfilled and that probate is as quick and painless as possible. To help make sure that your estate is probated in the most efficient manner during such an emotionally challenging time, it is a good idea to contact a New York probate lawyer who will be able educate you on the probate process and help you design an estate plan that fulfills your wishes.Probate
Probate is the legal process through which the executor of your estate winds up your affairs and distributes the assets of your estate according to the provisions of your will. If you do not leave a will, then your assets will be distributed through a process called estate administration. If you left a will and named an executor, your executor will be the person who will initiate the probate process by petitioning the New York Surrogate's Court in the county in which you lived at the time of your death. The petition will include a copy of your will and a copy of your death certificate. The Surrogate's Court judge will review the will to confirm that it was executed with the formalities required by New York law. NY EPTL § 3-2.1. For example, New York law requires that you as the testator sign the will at the end, or authorize another person to sign for you if you are unable. In addition, the signing of the will must be witnessed by 2 people. Once the Surrogate's Court judge is satisfied that your will was properly executed, the judge will issue an order admitting it to probate and will issue the executor a document called “letters testamentary.” As a New York probate lawyer will explain, with letters testamentary as proof, the executor will have legal authority to handle the affairs of your estate.
The process for a will being admitted to probate is not always smooth. When a petition is filed to admit a will to probate, the Surrogate's Court notifies interested parties. This allows interested parties to object to probate and possibly initiate a will contest. There are several bases for a will contest. A family member may feel that the deceased was unduly influenced or forced by another beneficiary into signing the will. Or someone may feel that the testator was mentally incapacitated at the time he or she signed the will. A will contest may also be based on allegations that the formalities of execution did not occur. A will contest has the potential of delaying probate and being costly to the estate. To ensure that your interests are protected through the process, contact a skilled New York probate lawyer.Placing a value on your estate
In probating the will, one of the first duties of your executor will be to determine the value of your estate. In order to do this your executor will have to inventory your estate and appraise each asset. This step is important as the executor must make sure that all of the property in your estate is accounted for. This step is also important as the executor must figure out the value of the property that is available in your estate to pay your creditors and distribute to your beneficiaries. If the value of your estate is not sufficient, then your beneficiaries may not receive the amount of property that you intend them to receive.Paying estate Bills
Before distributing your assets to your beneficiaries, your executor must use estate assets to pay outstanding debts and claims against the estate. For example, taxes must be paid as well as funeral expenses, and expenses related to managing the estate. There may be claims against the estate that require the executor to hire an accountant or attorney in order to settle the dispute. These professionals will be paid from estate assets.
At any point during probate the estate may be subject to claims by beneficiaries objecting to how the executor his managing the estate. For example, a beneficiary may believe that the executor is wasting or mishandling the assets of the estate. As a result, the estate may end up in estate litigation to resolve the allegations.Distributing Assets to the Beneficiaries
The final responsibility for your executor will be to distribute the assets of your estate to your beneficiaries. Your will will state the names of your beneficiaries and what asset each is to receive. If you specify that a beneficiary is to receive a pecuniary gift, meaning a gift of cash, your executor will simply write a check to the beneficiary. If the property is real estate or a vehicle, the executor must transfer title to your name.Consequences of not having a will
As an experienced probate attorney in New York will explain, if you do not to have a will when you die, New York will essentially write a will for you. In other words, New York has rules that prescribe who is entitled to a decedent’s property in the absence of a will. These rules are called the rules of intestate succession. They are rigid. Your surviving spouse and your children are considered your next of kin and legal heirs. In the absence of a spouse or children, only specific family members would be eligible to inherit. New York law does not make allowances of friends, employees, or institutions to share in an intestate decedent’s estate. This is why it is critical to execute a will.
If you do not have a will, the individual that is appointed to manage your estate is referred to as an administrator. The court will not appoint just anyone to serve as administrator. Only certain people such as beneficiaries are eligible. Also, the person must be qualified.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
The seasoned probate attorneys serving New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over 2 decades of experience representing executors, beneficiaries, and fiduciaries in complex probate matters. We will help you make the process as simple and painless as possible under the circumstances. Contact us at our office 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: Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Westchester County.