Probate Lawyers in New York, NY Here to Help You Through a Difficult Time
During challenging times of grief following the passing of a loved one, you may need a New York probate lawyer to help you with probate issues.
Ortiz & Ortiz LLP can help you with this complex legal process so that you can divide the property and manage the estate. Call us now and let us make sure your interests are protected. We have been proudly serving clients throughout Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island for over 30 years.
At Ortiz & Ortiz, we understand how difficult it is to deal with all the legal issues that come with probate. Likewise, we understand that the last thing a person wants after losing a loved one is to go through lengthy court proceedings. And hence, the probation process can be a harrowing one.
For this reason, probate attorney Norma E. Ortiz and her New York legal team will help you in all estate matters related to this process. This includes:
- Contested wills and litigation.
- Missing assets.
- Problems with executors.
- The matter of guardianship.
- Business ownership.
- The deeds of real property, are transferred to new owners upon death.
- Settling outstanding debts and tending to creditor claims.
- Elder law considerations.
- And any other estate plan problems that may arise.
Our goal is to ensure that things get resolved with minimal stress and in a timely manner.
What is the Purpose of Probate?
This is a process in which the estate of a deceased person is administered through a court of law. In simple terms, it is the process by which the court validates a person’s will.
The main purpose of probate in New York is to try to minimize the possibility of fraud after someone dies. Additionally, it ensures that creditors and taxes are paid after someone passes away, and also allows the identification and appraisal of all property in the estate.
Are All Assets Subject to Probate?
In the same way, as not every estate has to go through the full-blown probate process, not all assets are subject to probate. Let’s take a look at some assets that fall under this definition:
- Joint tenancy: When a joint tenant dies, the surviving tenant becomes the owner of the entire asset. This does not require a court order as it is the right of the survivor.
- Community property with right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety: These forms of property ownership work in a comparable way to joint tenancy and are only available to married couples. Therefore, these don’t need to go through probate.
- Beneficiary designations: Retirement and life insurance policies come with their own forms that allow the policy owner to stipulate who will receive the policy.
- Transfer-on-death accounts: Since some brokerage and bank accounts can also have named beneficiaries, the owner of the account can fill out forms directly with the company to determine who should get these account assets when the owner passes away.
What is New York Probate Law?
In New York, probate is initiated by the decedent’s executor as designated in their will.
- By submitting the will to be authenticated by a judge, the executor petitions New York’s Surrogate Court.
- Once the will is verified, the executor will have the legal authority to oversee the administration of the decedent’s estate. This authority will be granted by the judge.
Make no mistake, the New York State probate process can be complex, and you will need an experienced lawyer. Among the documents required for the process are:
- The original will.
- A formal request.
- Witness affidavits.
- Proper notice to family members and others is also included among the papers required in the New York State probate process.
The probate process of a last will takes place in the Surrogate’s Court. For the most part, there is a surrogate court located in every county in New York:
- New York County (Manhattan).
- Bronx County.
- Queens County.
- Kings County (Brooklyn).
- Richmond County (Staten Island).
Two primary sources of law guide the New York probate process:
- Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA)
- Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL)
Together with other court rules and decisions, they form the basis for probating a New York will.
What is the Typical Process for Probate in New York?
- The will is filed in a surrogate’s court in the county where the decedent lived.
- The will is promptly filed after the death.
- A petition for probate is filed.
- Court issues NY letters testamentary to the representative or executor.
- There is a legal deadline for creditors to file a claim.
- Within the first six months after being appointed, the executor has to file an inventory of the estate’s assets.
- With an official order, the court distributes the estate’s property to the beneficiaries.
- The executor receives legal fees for their services based on the estate’s size.
What Are Kinship Hearings?
Whether the proceeding is subject to testate or intestate administration, the Surrogate Court requires detailed information about the deceased, their assets, and the names and addresses of close family. This is not always easy to provide, especially when the only surviving relatives are cousins or distant relatives whose connection to the deceased is sometimes difficult to prove.
These relatives may be in other states or countries and may not have had contact with the deceased for years or maybe even never before.
To solve these issues, kinship hearings are often used. To demonstrate kinship to the decedent, these hearings require that the Court is provided with the following:
- Certified records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates.
- The testimony of disinterested people.
Although most probate cases do not involve estate litigation such as challenging a will, it does occasionally occur, and it is convenient to be prepared for it.
Your smartest option in these cases is to have an experienced New York probate lawyer like those of Ortiz & Ortiz by your side. These are not simple cases and will require the intense efforts of trained lawyers to obtain results.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Probate Process in New York
These are some of the questions our New York probate and estate lawyer receives at our law firm. Take the following information for general information purposes only and remember that, in order to properly serve you in your case, it is essential to know your specific circumstances. Contact our offices today by email, phone, or by booking your virtual consultation online.
What Are the Different Types of Probate in New York?
In New York, there are two procedures that can occur after a person’s death:
- Probate; or
- Administration proceeding: These occur in cases where a decedent dies without a will (intestate) and will be used to appoint an administrator who will distribute the decedent’s assets following New York state laws.
What Are Common Misconceptions About the Process?
- I don’t need to hire an attorney: While not required by the court, probate can quickly become a complex matter. Therefore, it is more than recommended to hire an attorney in many cases.
- My case will be solved quickly: On average, probate cases in New York take about a year to close. Since COVID, we have experienced an even slower process.
- Probate is not required if a decedent leaves a Last Will and Testament: The reality is that probate exists precisely to ensure that a person’s wishes embodied in a will are fulfilled.
Are There Probate Alternatives in New York?
Yes, there are options to avoid the often frustrating, costly, and lengthy court process.
- Payable or transfer-on-death designations for certain accounts. In this scenario, an individual can appoint a beneficiary to receive securities or funds upon the account owner’s death. New York does not allow for a transfer-on-death deed for real estate or vehicles.
- Joint ownership: In this scenario, the surviving owner of a property automatically inherits that property. Since ownership is directly transferred over, there is no need for the property to go through probate.
- Placing assets and funds into a trust: One of the easiest ways to avoid probate is by placing assets and funds into a trust so that the assets are passed directly to beneficiaries through its appointed trustee.
Do I Really Need a Probate Attorney?
Although no law requires you to hire an attorney and you can theoretically handle your case yourself, it is highly recommended to hire an attorney just the same.
Probate matters can be challenging, both legally and emotionally, and it will always be wise to have an experienced probate lawyer handle your case. Some difficulties include contesting wills, defects in the language of the will, or difficulty in locating interested parties for jurisdictional purposes, among many others.
What Problems Could You Face During Probate?
- An executor resigns from office: Having a great amount of responsibility, if a person decides not to fulfill their obligation as executor, the alternate executor will be appointed if one has been designated in the will and/or a court will appoint another person to administer the deceased’s will.
- The will itself is called into question: Beneficiaries or heirs may dispute the validity of the will or there may even be multiple versions of a will. If a surviving spouse or any other beneficiary believes that the will was drafted under duress from the undue influence of another party, they may have grounds to challenge the document with the help of an attorney.
- An executor fails to professionally manage a decedent’s estate: This may lengthen the probate process even further as the executor must be held accountable for their breach of fiduciary duty.
Do I Need to Probate My Relative’s Will?
The will must be probated only when the decedent died possessing assets valued at $ 50,000 or greater. Please note that this does not include assets for which there are designated beneficiaries such as insurance proceeds not payable to the estate or joint accounts.
In some cases, probate may not be necessary, such as when the decedent owned only real estate. An estate valued at less than $ 50,000 qualifies for small estate treatment.
How Long Does the Probate Process Take?
This really depends on the complexity of the probate and the schedule of each individual court.
Simple probate may take a few weeks but when there are complications such as contested matters, the process can be lengthy. Our lawyers at Ortiz & Ortiz could help make sure the process is completed as soon as possible.
How Much Does the Probate Process Cost in New York?
The costs associated with the probate process vary greatly depending on the complexities of each specific case.
In cases of contested probate matters, the costs will be much more than in those that are simple. The legal fees associated with simple probate will be comparatively modest compared to those of a complex probate case.
In addition to legal fees, the Surrogate’s Court charges probate filing fees based upon the gross value of the estate.
Get in Touch with a Knowledgeable Probate and Estate Planning Attorney
Our attorney Norma E. Ortiz has more than 30 years of experience in estate planning matters and probate proceedings. She can help you with:
- Determining and collecting assets.
- Establishing valid guardianship for underage children.
- Estate administration.
- Management of a living trust.
- Matters involving unknown heirs.
- Probating wills.
- Settling debts with a creditor, the government, or a nursing home.
- Tax filings.
- Trust administration.
- Any other issues that can arise in probate proceedings.
Your estate planning attorney will likely provide a broad range of services when representing the administrator or the executor of an estate in New York. We can help with the following:
- Assisting with the sale of personal properties and also ensuring that all interested parties are included in probate papers.
- Assisting with the sale of real estate owned by the deceased.
- Collecting any life insurance proceeds of the deceased.
- Drafting and filing all petitions.
- Estate litigation.
- Finding and securing assets of the deceased.
- Tax elections and filings.
- As well as litigation services, in case they are needed for contested wills, administration, or accounting, as well as relief against fiduciary and spousal elective share disputes.
There are many areas involved in the probate process and many problems that can arise. Ortiz & Ortiz will make it easier for you by providing honest, useful legal advice for your case.
Call us today and let us know your situation; time is key in these cases at 917-920-6437.