There are valid reasons why you should retain an attorney with probate expertise.
Under New York law, a will need not be probated unless the value of the estate to be disbursed is greater than $30,000. It is important to note that this excludes certain property such as:
Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary
Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary
Living trusts where a successor trustee has been named
Jointly held property including real estate, bank accounts, etc.
STARTING THE PROBATE PROCESS
To begin the probate process, a decedent must file a copy of a properly executed will with the courts. New York law requires that a will be signed by two witnesses, both of whom were in each other’s presence at the time of signing. Once the will has been filed with the Surrogate’s Court the administrator or executor of the estate of the decedent is provided with the appropriate Letters of Testamentary by the court.
ESTATE ADMINISTRATOR RESPONSIBILITY
The estate administrator’s responsibility starts once these letters have been issued. These responsibilities include locating and creating an inventory of all property of the decedent, taking necessary steps to have the necessary appraisals, paying any debts or taxes owed and finally, distributing the property of the decedent according to the terms of the will.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH CONTESTED WILLS?
In some instances, it may be possible that all or part of the will is contested by parties not named in the will. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence but is one that will certainly slow down the probate process. When a will is contested, the aggrieved party must show that the maker of the will (the decedent) was somehow coerced or forced into changing their will. Typically, this is very difficult to prove, especially if the will was signed several years before the decedent died.
LENGTH OF PROBATE
Depending on the complexity of the estate, it may take several months to fully catalog, appraise and disburse all of the decedent’s assets. During this time, any number of things may occur that require the administrator of the estate to seek legal assistance. Generally, the more assets a decedent has at the time of their death, the more challenging the probate process will be. At the end of the probate process, a final estate tax filing must be made by the administrator or executor.
Whether you are in the process of planning your estate and need a will, you have been named administrator of an estate, or you have recently lost a loved one, you may need assistance with the probate process. At Solomon Richman, P.C. we understand these issues are often very sensitive and may in some cases be contentious.
We will do our best to ensure the probate process goes as smoothly as possible and that the assets of an estate are distributed to the rightful heirs as quickly as possible. Call Solomon Richman, P.C. at (516) 437-6443 and speak with one of our estate planning attorneys to schedule a consultation if you have any questions or concerns about the probate process, or if you need assistance settling a decedent’s estate.