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New York Probate Lawyers

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person in accordance with the law. The probate process involves identifying and gathering the deceased person's assets, paying off any outstanding debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries or heirs. In the state of New York, the probate process is overseen by the Surrogate's Court, which is a specialized court that handles probate and administration matters. The probate process can be complex and time-consuming, and it is important to work with an experienced probate attorney to ensure that everything is handled properly. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates our New York probate lawyers have years of experience in assisting clients with the probate process in New York. We are dedicated to helping our clients navigate the legal requirements of the Surrogate's Court and ensuring that their rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

Probate Process in New York

The following is a summary of the key steps in the probate process.

  • File Petition and Appointment of Executor. The first step in the probate process is to file a petition with the Surrogate's Court in the county in which the decedent was a resident at the time of their death. The petition must include the original will, if there is one, and a death certificate. The court will then issue letters testamentary (or letters of administration), which give the executor the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
  • Gather Assets and Pay Debts. Once the executor has been appointed, they must gather and manage the assets of the estate. This may include bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property. The executor must also pay off any debts owed by the deceased person, including funeral expenses, taxes, and other liabilities.
  • Distribute Assets. After the debts have been paid and the assets have been gathered, the executor must distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. If the deceased person did not leave a will, the assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy in New York.

Probate can be a complex and time-consuming process. In addition to the general steps outlined above, unexpected challenges may develop such as a will contest, other types of estate litigation, missing beneficiaries, or complex assets. As a result, not only will the process become more complex, it will be longer and more costly to the estate. It is important to work with experienced legal representation to ensure that everything is handled properly. In addition to assisting with the probate process, an experienced New York probate lawyer can also help with other estate-related matters, such as trust administration and estate planning.

Notable New York Cases About Probate

The following cases illustrate some of the key issues that can arise in the probate process in New York, including challenges to the validity of a will, breaches of fiduciary duties by executors, and the importance of ensuring that the decedent had the requisite mental capacity to execute a valid will. An experienced probate attorney in New York can help you navigate these complex issues and ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the probate process.

  • Will of Katz, 494 N.Y.S.2d 629 (N.Y. Surr. Ct. 1985). In this case, the court held that a will was properly executed, even though the witnessed printed their names. Under EPTL 3-2.1, in order to be valid, witnesses must to sign the will. The court determined that printed names were valid “signatures.”
  • Zaharis' Estate, Matter of, 457 N.Y.S.2d 995 (N.Y. App. Div. 1982). This case involved a challenge to the validity of a will based on allegations of improper execution. The will was written on the back front of a small index card. It was signed and witnessed. The court determined that it was valid and admitted it to probate.
  • In re Maloy, 75 Misc.3d 390 (N.Y. Surr. Ct. 2022). In this case, the plaintiffs petitioned the court, alleging that the executor of an estate breached his fiduciary duty by failing to turn funds over to the trustee. Instead, he allowed it to “lay fallow” and uninvested. The court agreed with the petitioner and found that the executor had breached his fiduciary duty and should be held liable.
  • Niola v. Sarno (In re Capuano), 93 A.D.3d 666 (N.Y. App. Div. 2012). This case involved a will contest based on undue influence. It was brought by the brother of the testator who was left out of the will. Instead, the testator chose to leave her estate to her niece’s husband. The testator died about 3 weeks after executing the will. The proponent of the will argued that although at the time she executed her will she was undergoing treatment for cancer, the testator was alert, did not appear ill, and was her “usual self.” The court dismissed the challenge. The court found that the will was valid and dismissed the objection.
Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, we have years of experience in assisting clients with the probate process in New York. Our experienced probate attorneys serving New York are knowledgeable, compassionate, and dedicated to helping you navigate the process with as little stress and confusion as possible. We will work closely with you throughout the process, providing guidance and advice at every step. In addition to our expertise in probate law, we offer a range of services related to estate planning, trust administration, and more. Whether you need help drafting a will or creating a trust, we are here to help you protect your assets and ensure that your wishes are carried out after you pass away. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Manhattan, Long Island, Nassau County, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Bronx, and Westchester County.

New York Probate and State Administration Blog - New York Probate & Estate Administration
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