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An Overview of the Probate Process in New York

An estate lawyer in Brooklyn helping a client write her last will.

In New York, probate is necessary for assets solely owned by the deceased and haven’t been legally bequeathed to a designated beneficiary. This means that if the property owner passes away without a written will, the probate court will distribute the estate according to the state laws. However, if the property holder leaves behind a will that stands uncontested, the probate has a limited role to play.

What Are Probate And Non-Probate Assets?

Assets that can go through probate include solely-owned bank accounts, vehicles, antiques, cash, art pieces, and jewelry. On the other hand, non-probate assets include:

  • Any bank accounts with named beneficiaries.
  • Retirement accounts.
  • Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries.
  • Jointly held real estate.
  • Assets held in a trust.

Probate may also not be necessary if:

  • The total value of the estate is not big.
  • The estate only comprises non-probate assets.
  • The deceased left behind an estate plan to avoid probate.

A deceased individual’s last will.

A Quick Look at the Probate Process

Here is the process that follows:

  • The executor starts off the process by filing the probate petition. For this, they need a copy of the deceased’s death certificate and the original will. Both of these documents need to go to the Surrogate’s Court of the County, where the deceased individual last lived. The exact filing fee depends on the total size of the estate.
  • The next step is to itemize the inventory. The executor will collect the deceased’s physical and non-physical assets and appraise them as of the date of death.
  • The executor will also use the estate funds to pay any outstanding debts, liabilities, and taxes. If the estate doesn’t comprise enough cash, they might need to sell one of the assets.
  • The next step is to notify the distributees (legal heirs). The formal notice is called a citation, which also goes to the Surrogate’s Court. The estate is then distributed according to the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) and the Estates Powers and Trust Law (EPTL).

Seek Guidance from a Probate Attorney Brooklyn

Other than this, probate law also involves matter related to contesting a will, spousal rights, estate planning for blended families, and administration of a trust. If the process sounds overwhelming, try seeking help from a well-experienced probate attorney.

There is no better option in Brooklyn than The Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. Joseph Ledwidge attorney himself has around 20 years of experience in dealing with complex estate matters.

Try us out. We also offer services in Queens, Manhattan, and Jamaica.

Estate planning issues that could result in legal battles

New York residents may have spent time thinking about creating an estate plan. When doing so, there are certain issues to consider that may make a plan easier to execute. For instance, it is important who is named the executor of the estate. This person should be fair and objective about carrying out the wishes of the deceased individual.

However, this could be a moot point if there is no valid will in place prior to an individual passing away. In this scenario, the state may decide who gets an individual’s assets. If a will does exist, it should clearly state who gets an item and why. Forcing family members to figure it out on their own could result in frayed relationships and legal battles between family members.

In the event that minors are to be gifted money, it may be better if there are rules attached to how that money is to be given. Furthermore, all valuable possessions should be inventoried prior to creating a will regardless of who is getting an item. Doing so may make it easier to ensure that the beneficiaries get what they want. Doing so might also help a grantor to fully evaluate the size of their estate , which can help limit excess taxation when the items transfer ownership upon death. In cases where this is not done properly, family members may have to sell items to pay the taxes on their value.

To increase the odds that an estate plan meets an individual’s needs, it may be a good idea to review that plan every whenever a major event takes place. This may be done with the help of an estate planning attorney. An attorney may also be able to draft the necessary documents for passing on assets if a client is in the beginning stages of creating an estate plan.

Source : Forbes, ” Family Feud! 6 Stories Of Problematic Estate Planning ,” Feb. 19, 2015