Queens Probate Court
Probate court has jurisdiction over matters related to probate and the administration of the estates of decedents. While probate courts go by a variety of names in various states, in New York the probate court is called the Surrogate’s Court. While administrators are responsible for the settling of decedent’s estates, the Surrogate’s Court oversees the process to ensure that the process is handled properly, that there is no malfeasance by the administrator or other fiduciaries, to ensure that creditors are paid, and to make sure that assets are properly distributed. In addition, the Surrogate’s Court presides over any disputes that develop during the administration process. If you have concerns related to the management of a loved one’s estate, contact an experienced Queens probate court lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who will ensure that your legal rights are protected.Estate administration
- Filing petition. The first step in the process of settling a decedent’s estate is for a petition to be filed with the Surrogate’s Court in the county in which the decedent lived at the time of his or her death. The petition includes a copy of the decedent’s death certificate along with a request for the appointment of an administrator. If the decedent had a will, the petition includes a copy of the will and the administrator is referred to as the executor. If the decedent did not have a will, the administrator is referred to as the estate administrator. Once the Surrogate’s Court judge approve the appointment of the executor or estate administrator, he (or she) will issue that person Letters. The Letters give the administrator authority to act on behalf of the estate. There may be complications such as someone objecting to the will, claiming that it invalid. Or, there may be objections to the appointment of the administrator. The Surrogate’s Court must settle such issues before allowing the process of estate administration can move forward.
- Inventory assets. The executor or administrator must inventory the assets that are in the estate. Assets may include financial assets, real estate, and personal property. For financial assets such as bank accounts and financial accounts, the administrator must locate and review account paperwork. The Letters will allow the estate administrator access to the beneficiary’s accounts, and will allow the estate administrator to open accounts on behalf of the estate. The administrator must determine the value of each asset in the estate in order to understand how what is available to pay debts and what is available to distribute.
- Pay creditors. The Surrogate’s Court is charged with ensuring that the creditors of the decedent and other bills of the estate are paid. The decedent’s bills as well as bills of the estate must be paid out of estate assets. Such bills and expenses typically include credit card debt, bank loans, personal loans, medical bills, unpaid utility bills and other household bills, rents, and car loans. In order to ensure the best possibility of getting paid, creditors must file claims within 7 months of when the Surrogate’s Court issues Letters to the executor or estate administrator. The administrator is required to pay all valid, timely filed claims. However, the executor must carefully review each claim and only pay those that are valid. To ensure that only valid claims are paid and to protect the interests of the beneficiaries, it is good idea for administrators and other interested parties to work closely with an experienced Queens probate court attorney to determine the best strategy for satisfying estate debts.
- Property distribution. Following the 7 month waiting period that allows creditors to file claims against the estate, and following the payment of all valid claims, the executor or estate administrator must distribute the assets that remain in the estate. If there is a will then the assets must be distributed based on the terms of the will. The will will state who gets what. If the decedent did not leave a will, then the estate administrator will have to distribute the property to the decedent’s legal heirs. To learn more about the process of property distribution with or without a will, contact an experienced probate court attorney in Queens.
In addition to overseeing the general activities related to the settling of a decedent’s estate, the Surrogate’s Court also handles matters related to various types of disputes and litigation that may develop related to the administration of a estate or of a trust. Such disputes may be related to fiduciary duties, accountings, will and trust construction, and determination of spousal right of election.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
In addition to handling mattes related to settling the estates of decedents, the Surrogate’s Court also is responsible for matters related to trusts, guardianships, and adoptions. In some instances, the Family Court has concurrent jurisdiction over adoptions and guardianships. Regardless of the specific matter, it is important that you are represented by a probate court attorney serving Queens who had experience representing clients in the Surrogate’s Court. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience compassionately representing executors, administrators, beneficiaries, heirs, and other parties in matters before the New York Surrogate’s Court. We have the knowledge, resources, and experience ensure that your legal rights are protected. 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: Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.