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Staten Island Probate Court

When someone dies, he (or she) leaves an estate. An estate is the property that he owned at the time of his death. The property in his estate must be transferred to another person. Probate is the process that ensures that the property is transferred to the right person, based on the information in the decedent’s will. Probate is managed by the executor named in the will, and is overseen by a judge in the New York Surrogate’s Court. In New York probate takes at least 7 months, but can take a great deal longer if there are complications such as a will contest or other disputes. Probate can also be quite costly to the estate. Because probate can involve a number of complex issues, in order to ensure that your interests are protected it is important that you contact an experienced Staten Island probate court lawyer who understands the intricacies of the probate administration.

Steps in the probate process
  • Filing will with Surrogate’s Court. When someone passes away and leaves a will, the will must be filed with the Surrogate’s Court in the county in the decedent lived at the time of his death. The person who typically does this is the person named as executor in the decedent’s will. The filing of the will starts the process to begin probate. The executor must give notice to the decedent’s beneficiaries and legal heirs.
  • Letters testamentary issued. The Surrogate’s Court judge reviews the will. If the judge does not find problems with the will and if there are no objections, the judge will then admit the will to probate. Even though the decedent named the executor in his or her will, the named executed must still petition the court to be appointed. When the judge does appoint the executor, he or she will issue Letters Testamentary to the executor. The issuance of Letters means that the executor is formally appointed and has the legal authority to proceed with the activities involved with settling the estate and ultimately distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.
  • Inventory estate assets. One of the executor’s first duties is to inventory and safeguard the estate assets. This involves identifying all of the assets including bank accounts and other financial assets, personal property, automobiles, and real estate. Safeguarding the estate may mean making sure that property is properly insured and that he is in possession of the keys to houses and vehicles. The executor then must determine the value of the assets in the estate. For some types of property this may involve getting the property professionally appraised.
  • Pay estate debts. As an experienced Staten Island probate court attorney will explain, another important reason for probate is to ensure that the decedent’s creditors are paid. Thus, before estate assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries, the executor is required to use estate assets to pay any valid claims against the estate and expenses. For example, the executor will have to use assets to pay the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses. Assets must also be used to pay any final debts owed by the decedent such as credit card bills. Expenses related to the administration of the estate are also paid by the executor out of estate assets such as utility bills, insurance, and other expenses associated with maintaining estate property.
  • Respond to claims against the estate. It is not unusual for disagreements to develop during the probate administration process. For example, beneficiaries may disagree with how the executor manages the estate. It is up to the executor to respond appropriately to such claims. Any disputes that are not quickly settled may cause a delay in probate and a delay in a distribution of assets.
  • Distribute estate property. One of the final duties of the executor is to distribute the remaining property in the estate to the decedent’s beneficiaries based on the terms of the will.
Absence of a will

As a probate court attorney in Staten Island will explain, if a decedent passed away without leaving a will, then the term used is intestate. In an intestate scenario, the decedent’s estate must still go through an administration process that overseen by the Surrogate’s Court. However, the process is called estate administration and the person appointed by the court to manage it is called the estate administrator. Because there is no will, New York state determines who would get’s an intestate decedent’s assets based on the rules of intestate succession. According to this law, the decedent’s assets will go to his (or her) next of kin. The surviving spouse and children are by law the next of kin. However, in the absence of a surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, then the decedent’s property will be distributed to other relatives based on an order of priority set forth in the statute.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Probate administration, while a standard proceeding, can be complicated by disputes, hard-to-find beneficiaries, and claims against the estate. Any complications may cause an already long process to take even more time. The experienced probate court attorneys serving Staten Island at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing executors, beneficiaries, heirs, and other interested parties in matters before the New York Surrogate’s Court. We have the knowledge, resources, and experience to help. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Staten Island, Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Suffolk County, 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