Suffolk County Probate Court
The New York court system has several different courts, each with jurisdiction over specific matters. One such court is the Surrogate’s Court. Sometimes referred to as the probate court, the Surrogate’s Court is primarily responsible for matters related to estates, of deceased individuals, although it has concurrent jurisdiction with Family Court over matters related to guardianship of minors and adoptions. To learn more about the role of the Surrogate’s Court in your estate, guardianship, and adoption matter, contact an experienced Suffolk County probate court lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates who understands the legal and procedural requirements related to matters handled by the New York Surrogate’s Court.Surrogate’s Court jurisdiction
New York Surrogates’ Courts are responsible for handling cases related to probating wills, administration of intestate estates, small estate administration, inter vivos and testamentary trusts, guardianships, and adoptions. However, if you need to file a petition with the appropriate Surrogate’s Court as there is a Surrogate’s Court in each county in New York.
- Probate administration. When a decedent passes away and leaves a will, the executor presents the will to the Surrogate’s Court for probate. Probate is the process of validating the will. If the judge reviews the will and determines that it is indeed valid, the will will be admitted to probate. However, if an interest party objects because he or she believes that the will is somehow fraudulent, the Surrogate’s Court judge will review the objection. If the will is admitted, then it is the job the executor to manage the estate through the probate administration process. The executor then must inventory the estate assets, pay creditors, and distribute estate assets based on the terms of the will. While the executor is responsible for these activities, the Surrogate’s Court oversees the process. The executor will have to court approval for many of the activities during the probate administration process.
- Estate administration. If a decedent does not have the will, the administration of his or her estate is a little different from the administration process where there is a will. Because there is no will to probate, the process is not referred to as probate administration, but as estate administration. Instead of an executor managing the process, an estate administrator is appointed by the Surrogate’s Court. Nonetheless, the primary goals of the process are to pay estate bills and distribute assets. Instead of assets being distributed to beneficiaries of the decedent’s choosing, the assets are distributed to the decedent’s legal heirs based on New York’s intestacy rules.
- Small estate administration. While all estates must go through an administration process overseen by the Surrogate’s Court, there is a special process for estates that have assets totaling $30,000 or less. The process is called Voluntary Administration. While standard estate administration and probate administration will take at least 7 months, voluntary administration is a lot quicker and less costly to the estate. However, as a probate court attorney in Suffolk County will explain, there are very strict rules related to qualifying for small estate administration. It is important to make sure the estate qualifies before moving forward with the petition. Small estate administration is available to qualifying estate whether or not there is a will.
- Trusts. The Surrogate’s Court has jurisdictions over matters related to both inter vivos trusts and testamentary trusts. An inter vivos trust is a trust that a grantor creates during his (or her) lifetime, while a testamentary trust is one that is created by a will. If there are disputes related to a trust, then the Surrogate’s Court would preside over it. Examples of disputes include disagreements over the construction of trust terms, accusations related to fiduciary breaches, and challenges over the validity of the trust. For more information related to trust litigation and the role of the Surrogate’s Court, contact an experienced Suffolk County probate court attorney.
- Guardianships. The Surrogate’s Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Family Court over matters related to the guardianship of minors. The court also handles cases involving the guardianship of a minor’s property. For example, if a parent or other adult leaves a minor a substantial amount of money or property, that money or property will likely be placed in a trust for the child until the child turns 18. The court will appoint a guardian over the child’s property and oversee how it is managed. Such a guardianship can be costly to the trust. A court appointed guardianship can be avoided by advance planning, including the establishment of a testamentary or inter vivos trust for the minor’s property and the naming of a trustee.
- Adoptions. Along with Family Court, adoptions are also handled by the Surrogate’s Court. There are a variety of different types of adoptions including infant adoptions, relative adoptions, step parent adoptions, adult adoptions, and foreign adoptions.
As an experienced probate court attorney serving Suffolk County will explain, in order for your matter to be heard in the Surrogate’s Court, appropriate forms must be properly completed and timely filed. For years the attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have successfully represented clients in matters before the New York Surrogate’s Court. We have the experience, knowledge, and skill to make sure 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: Suffolk County, Nassau County, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, Long Island, Manhattan, and Westchester County.