Member of:
Justia Lawyer Rating
American Association for Justice
Union Plus

Will Probate in New York

When a loved one passes away, their will must be probated in order to legally distribute their assets to their beneficiaries. In New York, this process takes place in the Surrogate's Court of the county where the decedent resided. The probate process involves proving the validity of the will, identifying and valuing the assets of the estate, paying any outstanding debts or taxes, and ultimately distributing the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, our skilled New York probate lawyers can guide you through every step of the probate process and ensure that your loved one's wishes are carried out in accordance with the law.

Process of Probating a Will

The first step in the probate process is to file a petition with the Surrogate's Court to admit the will to probate. This petition must be accompanied by the original will, as well as a death certificate and other supporting documentation. The Surrogate's Court will then review the will and determine whether it meets the legal requirements for validity.

Under New York law, a will must be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by at least two competent people who were present at the same time as the testator when they signed the will. The witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator.

If the will is found to be valid, the court will appoint an executor to manage the estate. The executor is responsible for identifying and valuing the assets of the estate, paying any outstanding debts or taxes, and ultimately distributing the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. If the decedent did not name an executor in their will, the court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate.

Under New York law, the executor or administrator must provide notice of the probate proceeding to all of the decedent's heirs and beneficiaries, as well as any other interested parties. This notice must be published in a local newspaper and sent by mail to the known addresses of the heirs and beneficiaries.

Once the notice has been given, the executor or administrator can begin to manage the assets of the estate. They may need to sell property, pay off debts, or resolve any legal disputes that arise during the probate process. The executor or administrator is also responsible for filing tax returns for the estate and paying any taxes owed.

Once all of the debts and taxes have been paid, the executor or administrator can distribute the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries named in the will. If there are any disputes among the beneficiaries or other interested parties, the court may need to resolve these issues before the assets can be distributed.

Under New York law, the probate process can take several months or even years to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate and any legal challenges that arise. However, working with an experienced New York probate lawyer can help to streamline the process and ensure that your loved one's wishes are carried out in a timely and efficient manner.

Notable New York Cases About Will Probate
  • Matter of Hedges, 100 A.D.2d 586 (N.Y. App. Div. 1984). The contested probate case involves a codicil to the last will and testament of Nellie M. Hedges. The codicil, signed on March 14, 1978, bequeaths Hedges' residence to the Presbyterian Church Society of Bridgehampton, revoking a prior bequest to her friend, Halsey Brower. After Hedges' death, executors Louise Hildreth and Frederick Hagerman sought probate for the will and codicil, but Brower objected, citing lack of due execution, lack of testamentary capacity, and undue influence. A jury trial ensued, resulting in a verdict against probate on all grounds. Upon review, the appellate court finds insufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. The subscribing witnesses testified that Hedges acknowledged the codicil and was of sound mind during its execution. The court notes that the testatrix's attorney supervised the execution, invoking a presumption of regularity. The lack of evidence supporting testamentary incapacity or undue influence leads the court to reverse the decree, allowing probate of the codicil and appointing Hildreth and Hagerman as permanent executors. The appellate court finds the jury's determination unsupported by the record, emphasizing the importance of evidence directly related to the moment of execution.
  • Matter of Martin, 1 Misc. 3d 769, 771 N.Y.S.2d 292 (N.Y. Surr. Ct. 2003). The case involves a motion for summary judgment in the Matter of the Estate of Esmond Martin, focusing on the construction of a will and codicil. Florence Furst, the petitioner and a beneficiary, seeks a construction of the will's forfeiture clause, which stipulates that contesting the will or any codicil results in a complete forfeiture of bequests. The nominated executor, Bessemer Trust Company, filed a petition for probate of the will and a codicil dated February 17, 2002. Furst contests the codicil, arguing that the forfeiture clause only applies if the codicil is admitted to probate. The court grants summary judgment in favor of Furst, construing the forfeiture clause accordingly. Additionally, Furst seeks a construction of other articles in the will to determine her standing to contest probate of the codicil. The court holds this request in abeyance pending the probate proceeding. The cross motion for discovery is also held in abeyance. The court denies the petition for "partial" probate of the will before determining the codicil's validity, stating that the will's construction will occur before probate. The petition is granted for the application of SCPA 315, and Furst's time to file objections to probate is extended.

These cases illustrate the complexity of will probate in New York and the importance of having experienced legal representation throughout the process. Whether you are an executor, beneficiary, or interested party, it is crucial to have skilled probate attorney in New York who can guide you through the probate process and advocate for your interests in court.

Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, our skilled probate attorneys serving New York have years of experience navigating the probate process in New York. We understand the challenges that can arise during this difficult time and are committed to providing you with the guidance and support you need to manage your loved one's estate with care and compassion. Contact us 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.

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