Probate Court and Wills
Probate is the process by which a last will is validated by the court. In New York, the Surrogate's Court is responsible for the probate of wills and Administration proceedings where a person dies intestate or without a last will. Probate proceedings involve probate court wills.
Typically, probate proceedings result in the appointment of an Executor and Administration proceedings result in the appointment of an Administrator. The Executor and Administrator are fiduciaries who are responsible for the administration and settlement of a decedent's estate. This involves the collection of estate assets, the payment of debts, expenses and taxes and the distribution of the estate assets.
In a typical case the following are some of the steps that occur in the probate process:
1. Preliminary Investigation - after a person dies it is important to locate or search for the decedent's Last Will. This document may be found among the individual's personal papers or it may be locked up in a safe deposit box. In such a situation the Court can be asked to issue an Order allowing a decedent's apartment to be searched or to have the safe-deposit box opened to search for the Will. Also, steps should be taken to determine the name and location of all of the person's named as beneficiaries in the Will as well as the decedent's distributees. It is the responsibility of the individual named as executor to promptly put together all of this material as best as possible so that the probate proceeding can be expedited. Sometimes it may be difficult to determine or locate all of the descendent's next of kin. It may be necessary to hire a genealogist to determine the family tree or a private investigator to search for an heir whose whereabouts cannot be determined. The process to locate a person's missing heirs can delay estate settlement.
2. Preparing and Filing of Probate Papers - once the preliminary papers are gathered it is helpful to consult with a qualified New York Probate Lawyer who can assist with the completion of the necessary information and documents needed for probating the Will. Additional information regarding the decedent's assets and debts and business and financial affairs can be found and assessed at this time. A decedent's business and financial matters can be hard to compile. A good source of information aside from the ordinary records maintained by the decedent is recent tax returns and mail delivery which might contain current account statements. Some information may need additional investigation especially if the decedent held web-based accounts. Probate can be a very complex and often confusing process since the rules contained in the New York estate laws must be complied with and satisfied before letters testamentary can be issued to an executor. Letters Testamentary authorize the executor to act as the estate representative. These letters are given after the Will is admitted to probate.
I have many years of experience representing persons in connection with probate court wills and administration proceedings. I assist my clients with the preparation and filing of all New York Surrogate's Court papers and the administration and settlement of the decedent's estate after they are appointed as fiduciary.
If you have any questions just call (212) 355-2575 and someone will assist you or e-mail