Updating Your Will? Read This New York Probate Advice First

Three pieces of New York probate advice from attorney Jules Haas

If you are preparing a will, trust, or other estate document in New York, probate advice from Jules Haas, a Manhattan-based attorney who practices trust and estate law, may be the catalyst that pushes your family toward a better organized estate and, as a result, a shorter probate process for your will.

With over thirty years of helping New Yorkers with estate planning and settlement for their loved ones, attorney Jules Haas is well-qualified to provide New York probate advice. Do any of the questions below apply to you?

Question #1: I’ve heard that probate can last anywhere from a couple months to a year. What are some ways I can avoid the probate process?

Attorney Jules Haas’ New York probate advice:

The New York state probate process can be simplified, and in some cases avoided, by planning ahead with your attorney. There are a few ways you can do this, but before we get into those, let’s debunk the myth of probate as a legal process to be dreaded and avoided.

Probating a will just means proving its validity in court. Like a bouncer checking everyone’s ID at the door to prevent underage drinking, the Surrogate’s Courts check every will to prevent fraud.

The amount of time it takes for the court to find a will valid depends on the size and complexity of the estate, and whether or not it is being challenged.

Wills must be probated, but not every aspect of your estate has to be subject to the public scrutiny that wills undergo during probate. This is where trusts and other plans come in to form the “non-probate estate.”

Living trusts (Inter vivos trusts), joint ownership, and transfer-on-death registrations for stocks and bonds are all acceptable measures a person can take to lessen the size of their estate that has to undergo probate.

Question #2: Well, does the estate still have to go through probate if there is no will?

Attorney Jules Haas’ New York probate advice: Yes. Instead of a probate proceeding, a case for Administration will be filed with the Court. When there is no will, the Surrogate's Court appoints an Administrator to do the job of the executor. The difference between an executor’s job and an administrator’s job is simply that an executor is named by the decedent in a will, and an administrator is named by the New York State laws. Both are often close relatives of the deceased.

An estate administrator lacks the advantage of having the decedent’s wishes put in writing in a will to make the process faster.

The best New York probate advice you can take is to write a will and name a trusted executor (as well as a successor to the executor). If you want to minimize the amount of your estate that goes to the state and to any recipients other than your chosen family, friends, and charities, write a will.

Question #3: Okay, what about this: I live in New York and I own property here. I also own a vacation home in another state. Is there any way to prevent having to go through probate twice?

Attorney Jules Haas’ New York probate advice: Yes. Because estate laws vary from state to state, estates with real estate or possessions which require a title in more than one state are subject to probate in each state in which there is property registered in a decedent’s name. Any probate after the original one is an ancillary probate.

You can avoid ancillary probate by sharing or putting the title of the real estate outside your state of domicile into others’ names.

For example, if you share the title for your out of state property with your spouse, he or she will benefit from rights of survivorship and not have to go through ancillary probate. You could also share the title with a non-spouse, allowing that person to avoid ancillary probate because of rights of survivorship, but non-spousal joint titles are less straightforward, and will require detailed planning with your attorney. The use of Living Trusts can also avoid ancillary probate.

There are many more options for navigating the probate process ahead of time, and making sure your estate documents are written to your survivors’ maximum benefit. Contact Jules Haas for more New York probate advice, and start building an estate your loved ones can depend on. You can contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email: jules.haas@verizon.net