Probate and Administration

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Probate is the process of proving a Will.  When a person dies with a will, the will must be declared legal in Surrogate’s Court.  Probate is a process that can take some time.  During this time, anyone who has a valid claim on the estate in question can contest the will.

For larger estates, the process of probate can take several months.  If there is a will contest, probate can take several years.  Once the Court declares the will as valid, the executor distributes the assets based on the wishes of the deceased.

Spouses and Children May Seek a Portion of the Inheritance during Probate, even if expressly excluded from the will

Our office files an administration proceeding if a person intestate, or without a will.  The Court will appoint an administrator, and divide the estate according to the Rules Governing Intestate Succession.  New York State law outlines these rules in Estates, Powers, and Trusts, Article 4 Part 1, § 4-1.1 Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate.

New York State law entitles a spouse a portion of the inheritance, even if a will expressly excludes a spouse.  The Surrogate Court will not track down a spouse to notify them if they are not in the will.  It is the responsibility of the spouse to contest the will to receive their inheritance rights.  A spouse has a limited time to act, and there are no extensions.  Without prompt action, the Court assumes the spouse has waived all inheritance rights.

If the will contest is not filed promptly, the Court assumes the spouse has forfeited their rights.

Direct descendants, such as children, are also entitled to a portion of the inheritance and may file a will contest during the probate period.  Biological and adopted children and treated equally under the law, so even adopted heirs may attempt to reclaim their inheritance rights.

Surrogate’s Court Oversees All Probate and Administration Matters

Whether a will assigns an executor, or the Court assigns an Administrator, the Surrogate’s Court of the county where the person died oversees the probate process.

Within probate, there is a detailed and specific process of notifying heirs and beneficiaries.  The Surrogates Court sends notifications to heirs and beneficiaries named in the will.  The Court also notifies creditors.

During the process of probate, executors or administrators pay the creditors and satisfy any taxes.  Heirs to the estate may agree to the named executor to manage the distribution of assets as prescribed in the will.  Heirs may also contest the details of the will.  In cases of a contested will, proceedings will take place in Surrogate’s Court, where the judge, or surrogate, will decide if the will should be proved and handed to the executor.

A Surrogate May Prove All or a Portion of a Will.  They may also completely disregard the will

A surrogate may admit the will as is, admit portions of the will, admit an earlier version of the will, or not admit the will at all.  If the Court disregards a will, they proceed as if there was no will. The surrogate assigns an administrator to distribute the assets among the descendants.

Probate can be a long, drawn-out process under the best of circumstances.  If there is a will contest, the process can take years and be very time consuming and expensive.

For all Probate Matters, Call the Law Offices of Nicole Zuvich

At the Law Offices of Nicole Zuvich, when it comes to creating your will, we are incredibly detail-oriented.   When your loved one passes, we assist you throughout the probate process. We assist with the completion of the distribution of your loved one’s estate is with a minimum of time, expense, and taxes. We also encourage proactive discussions about options to avoid Probate and estate administration when appropriate.  Call our office at 516-880-9988 to schedule an appointment.

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