Suffolk County Probate

Probate is a process that a deceased person’s estate must go through before the assets in the in estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. During probate the court officially appoints the executor to manage your estate. The executor will also be the person who distributes the property in the estate to the beneficiaries. Probate is a process that you want to avoid. It can take a long time and it can be expensive. The length of time it takes depends on the size of the estate and its complexity. The first step in probate is for the Surrogate’s Court judge to review the will to determine its validity. In ensure that a will is admitted to probate without delay it is critical that the will is well drafted by an experienced probate attorney. Careful planning and drafting of your last will and testament will not only help ensure that probate is as problem free as possible, it will also help ensure that your wishes for how your estate should be distributed are fulfilled. To help make sure that your estate is probated in the most efficient manner during such an emotionally challenging time, it is a good idea that you contact a Suffolk County Probate Lawyer to work closely with you as your draft your will to make sure that is clearly written, consistent with your wishes, and executed according to the requirements of New York Estate, Powers, and Trusts law.

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What is the probate process?

Probate is the process of proving the validity of someone’s will and the distribution of an estate’s assets to the named beneficiaries. If you do not leave a will or if your will is determined to be invalid then your assets will go through a process that is similar to probate but is referred to as estate administration.

The first step in probate is for someone, generally the named executor, to petition the court to open the estate. The petition should include both a copy of the will and a copy of the death certificate.

Before admitted the will to probate the judge will review it to make sure that it meets the requirements of New York probate law. For example, New York law requires that the person who makes the will sign it at the end. In addition, the signing of the will must be witnessed by 2 people. Once the judge is satisfied that your will is valid and that it was properly executed, the judge will allow it to be probated. This means that the person who you named in your will to be your executor will be legally able to act as your executor and move forward with the necessary steps to settle your estate and ultimately distribute your assets.

What are problems that might arise during probate?

The process for a will being admitted to probate is not always smooth and can be quite emotional and complicated. An attempt will be made to notify every interested party that you have passed away and that you left a will. Interested parties include beneficiaries you name in your will as well as other family members. Your creditors will also be notified. Any interested party can contest the well, challenge its validity or file a claim against your estate. A challenge to the validity of the will will delay your will being admitted to probate and will cost your estate money.

Is there any way that probate can be simplified?

Because probate can be expensive and lengthy, it is a good idea to take steps to avoid, minimize the assets that are subject to probate, or make sure that it is as uncomplicated as possible. The best strategies include making sure few assets are in your probate estate and to make sure your will and other estate planning documents are well-drafted by an experienced attorney.

Strategies that help make sure assets are passed outside of your will and therefore avoid probate include:

  • Setting up one or more trusts. If you transfer property to a trust during your lifetime that property will pass to beneficiaries outside of your will. This means that your beneficiaries will be able to access the assets a lot more quickly.
  • Setting up payable-on-death accounts. A payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) account is a financial account such as a bank account that is set up so that upon your death the POD or TOD person who you designate is immediately made the owner of the money or other assets in the account.
  • Inter-vivos giving. Give away property during your lifetime. If the property is not owned by you at the time of your death it is not part of your probate estate.
  • Beneficiary designations. Property that allows beneficiary designations will go to the person you designate upon your death. For example, the money in your 401(k) r IRA will immediately go to the person you designate without having to go through probate.
What if I do not make a will?

If you do not write a will when you pass away your assets will be distributed to your heirs based on New York's intestacy rules. NY EPTL § 4-1.1. In other words, New York will essentially write a will for you. Instead of you deciding who will get your assets, who will get which assets, who will be your executor, and who will be the guardian of your children, New York will decide for you.

Even if you take steps to avoid probate, there is a good chance that some of your property will remain in your probate estate at the time you pass away. In order to makes sure that no more than a minimal amount of your assets will be subject to probate, it is important that you work closely with an experienced estate planning attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates are experienced in representing estates in New York Surrogate's Court. We will help you make the process as simple and painless as possible under the circumstances. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan.

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