PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
Our attorneys have decades of experience in handling Surrogate’s Court matters. We handle everything from probate and administration to sale of decedents’ real property to complex trust accountings to litigated estate proceedings.
Clients who die with a Will get to decide themselves who inherits their property. Probate is the process by which the executor named in the will is asked to prove to the court that the Will submitted for probate was valid. The executor must prove this was in fact the decedent’s “Last” Will and Testament, that the decedent was competent to make a will, that there was no fraud or undue influence that caused the decedent to leave his or her property as the Will sets forth and that certain formalities were observed when the Will was executed.
Those who are adversely affected by the Will – in general, next-of-kin who would have inherited in the absence of the Will – are given a chance to contest the Will in Surrogate’s Court. Most probate proceedings are uncontested and the Will is admitted to probate as a matter of course in a month or two.
The State of New York decides who inherits from people who die without a Will. The court appoints an administrator to wind up the decedent’s last affairs and distribute the person’s property as directed by law Sometimes children of cousins that the decedent never met wind up inheriting from the person’s estate.
Trust and Estate Administration is where we represent trustees, executors and administrators in marshalling assets, paying debts, taxes and expenses of administration and distributing the balance of the estate to the beneficiaries. There are special “fiduciary duty” rules that they must follow to avoid major consequences.
Surrogate’s Court Litigation includes contested probate, discovery/turnover proceedings in which an executor or administrator seeks to have assets held by someone else brought into the estate, and accounting proceedings, where a beneficiary claims that the executor or administrator acted improperly in administering or distributing estate assets.