Estates and Probate

What You Need to Know About Probate Concerning Estates

When a person dies after preparing a Will it may be necessary to probate or prove the Will.  The Will is the operative instrument that provides for the transfer of the decedent's assets that do not automatically pass to another by means such as the operation of law, i.e. joint ownership.  Nassau estate lawyers, as well as estate attorneys throughout the state, often see situations where a person dies and all assets are payable to named beneficiaries listed on a retirement account or a life insurance policy.  Similarly, assets may be held jointly with others.  In these cases it is not necessary to probate a decedent's Will since all assets can be collected without Court authorization.  However, it may still be necessary to pay estate taxes.  A Suffolk estate tax attorney or other New York estate lawyer should be consulted to help with these situations. A proceeding in the New York Surrogate's Court called a probate proceeding must be commenced and completed in which the Court needs to be satisfied that the paper filed as the Last Will is authentic according to the applicable statutes and rules. Probate estates require a lot of attention.

Probate estate proceedings typically require detailed information regarding the decedent's family and assets.  The proceeding may involve issues dealing with proof of kinship, capacity of the decedent, Will contests, undue influence, spousal rights of election and the proper signing of the Will.  At the conclusion of a successful probate proceeding Letters Testamentary are issued by the Court to the estate Executor who is then authorized to administer the decedent's estate.

Since Letters Testamentary authorize an executor to act on behalf of an estate this document is essential to estate settlement.  In order to liquidate and collect a decedent's assets such as a bank account or brokerage account, a current court certified copy of this paper must be presented along with other necessary forms.   The executor usually opens an estate bank account and the bank requires that this paper be filed showing the executor's authority to act and to open the account.

Typically, the Letters Testamentary that are given by the Court do not have any restrictions. The executor can then exercise all of the fiduciary powers that are allowed under the estate laws and rules.  Sometimes the letters may contain a restriction.  For example, the executor may be limited in collecting or selling an asset.  In these cases the executor would need to make a further application to the Court  to expand his powers if needed.  Also, the Court may require that a fiduciary file a surety bond before letters are given.  In most Wills there is a provision which directs that the Executor does not need to file a bond.  However, the Court has the discretion to require a bond if needed.

I have many years of experience working personally with clients helping them with the probate process including success with Will contests, kinship matters and obtaining Letters Testamentary.  The probate process can be complex.  I can help streamline the procedure.  My practice stands out in its personal attention to client needs.

Please come in to my office for a free consultation and meet with me to discuss your options. To contact my office located in Manhattan call (212) 355-2575. You can also e-mail