Probate Court Documents
The structure and content of probate Court documents vary from state to state as do probate laws. Probate Court documents can include: a Will, if there was one; codicils (amendments) to the Will; a petition for the appointment of an Executor or Administrator; a list of heirs or beneficiaries; and an inventory of the decedent's estate assets at the time of death. I have represented many clients in matters of probate, fiduciary appointment and estate administration.
The New York Surrogate’s Courts have specific forms and documents that require detailed information that must be filed in probate, administration and other proceedings. The forms and information assist the Court in determining the relief that is being requested such as the probate of a Will or the settlement of an Executor’s account.
In addition to the original of the decedent's Last Will and an original death certificate, the main document needed to commence the probate proceeding is the Probate Petition. This paper must contain information regarding the name of the petitioner which is typically the person nominated in the Will as the Executor. If the primary Executor is deceased or unable to act then the person named in the Will as the alternate or successor Executor will file the petition. The petition must be signed and notarized. It also contains information such as the date of the Will, the names of the attesting witnesses and the estimated value of the decedent's personal property and real property. The value of the property that is listed in the petition should include only these assets that comprise the decedent's probate estate. These are typically items that are owned by the decedent in his name alone and without any named beneficiary. Assets that are owned jointly or that have a named beneficiary such as a life insurance policy are not included as part of the probate estate. Also, the petition lists the names and addresses of all beneficiaries and the decedent's distributees. The Surrogate's Court does not permit the probate process to be completed until all the information is completed in the petition.
Another essential paper is a Waiver and Consent form that can be signed by the decedent's next of kin. This form tells the Court that these family members do not contest the Will. If the form is not signed then the Court will issue a Citation which is served on the non-consenting individuals and directs them to appear at the Court on a certain date if they want to contest the Will.
Another paper that may be required is a Kinship Affidavit if the Court needs more information regarding the decedent's distributees.
I have many years of experience in the NY Surrogate's Courts involving probate court documents and the accounting of the estate when it is finalized. The Surrogate's Court in each New York County in a proceeding such as a Queens Probate proceeding may want to see documents that are prepared in a manner that is acceptable to that particular court. If you have any questions just call (212) 355-2575 and someone will assist you or fill out my contact form.