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Staten Island Will and Estate

A will is a critical part of your estate plan. A well-drafted will is the only way to ensure that all of the property that is in your estate will go to the people who you want to receive it. In the absence of a will, you lose control and property that is in your estate will go to your next of kin, even if that is not what you want. To learn more about the role a will plays in estate planning, contact an experienced Staten Island will and estate lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who can explain to your why a will is so important, as well as the role other documents such as a trust, can plan in your estate plan.

Requirements for a valid will

In order to for the New York Surrogate’s Court to enforce the terms of your will, it must be valid. It is not enough for you to simply tell your family and friends your wishes. It is also not enough for you to make promise to individual family members and friends that each will receive a specific part of your estate. Instead the will must be drafted and executed in the manner described in New York Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law.

The will must be writing. While there is a narrow exception to this requirement, that exception will apply in very limited circumstances. Thus, in order to make sure that your will is valid, write it. You must also sign the will at the end. Any information that appears after your signature would be ignored. If critical information appears after your signature, the court may determine that the entire will is invalid. The signing of the will must be witnessed by at least 2 qualified witnesses who must also sign the will.

Despite following the formal requirements of executing the will, the court will invalidate a will if the following circumstances were present at the time of the will was executed:

  • Duress
  • Undue influence
  • Fraud

As a Staten Island will and probate lawyer will explain, when the executor petitions to admit a will to probate, any interested party who feels that the will is not valid, as the right to file a will contest. The result of a will contest will be that probate will delayed. If the will contest is successful, the judge will throw out the will and proceed as if the will decedent passed away without a will.

Probate estate

Not all of your property can be disposed of in will. The property must be classified as probate property. While in some cases most of a person’s wealth is non-probate property, it is still important to have a will. Examples of probate property include individually owned property, property owned as a tenant in common, debts owed to you, gain from the sale of a business, and damages from a civil lawsuit.

Property that is not subject to probate includes: joint tenancy property subject to right of survivorship, life insurance proceeds, annuities, retirement plans, payable-on-death or transfer-on-death accounts, and property in a living trust. Non-probate property passes to the co-owner or designated beneficiary outside of your will. The terms of your will cannot change how non-probate property is disposed of. If you are unsure as to whether property that you own is probate property, contact a will and estate attorney in Staten Island.

Absence of a will

If you pass away without a will, the property that is part of your probate estate will be transferred by a court appointed estate administrator to your next of kin as defined by New York’s intestate succession statute. This typically means that your property will go to your surviving spouse and children. If you have neither, then the statute provides an order of priority as to who will get your property.

Non-probate property will not be affected by the absence of a will. However, even if you believe that you do not have any probate property because you transferred all property that would otherwise be probate property to a living trust, you should still have a will. There is always the possibility that non-probate property will come into your estate later and you will not have the opportunity to transfer it to your trust. If this happens, that property will be subject to the rules of intestacy.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

The will and estate attorneys serving Staten Island at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over 2 decades of experience representing clients in complex estate matters, including drafting wills, trusts, and other estate documents. In order to ensure the smooth transfer of our property to your loved ones, it is important that you have a comprehensive estate plan that is customized to your specific needs. 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: Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Bronx, Long Island, 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.
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