The process of probating a will refers to proving the document’s validity in court. It is a complicated proceeding that, in the most extreme examples, can take years to complete. When someone dies without a will, the probate court appoints an administrator for their estate. Similarly, the probate judge has the power to appoint guardians for minors and conservators for incapacitated adults.

If you have recently lost a loved one, a Staten Island probate lawyer could assist you with the process of probating their will. An attorney could also help you file the appropriate paperwork to assign a guardian or conservator. The probate process is complicated, but our attorneys work to help you resolve your loved one’s affairs in an efficient manner. Do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Louis P. Lepore when you have questions about the probate process.

The Probate Process in New York State

While the probate court has a variety of functions, it mainly oversees the processes of proving the authenticity of a deceased person’s last will and testament and distributing assets to designated beneficiaries according to their estate plan. New York’s probate process typically involves:

  • The court appointing an individual to administer the estate. If the deceased person had an estate plan, the administrator or executor may be named in their will. If there is no executor named, the probate court will nominate one.
  • The court confirming the will’s validity by determining if it complies with state requirements.
  • The deceased person’s assets being identified and appraised.
  • The executor paying any debts and taxes owed by the deceased out of the estate and then overseeing the distribution of the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries.

The New York Probate Code requires that estate executors and administrators in any probate asset proceeding satisfy two requirements: publishing a public notice to the deceased person’s creditors; and filing an inventory of the estate assets with the probate court. An estate executor or administrator should work with an experienced lawyer in Staten Island while navigating probate.

Avoiding Probate

The probate process is not always necessary—avoiding the costs and delays of probating a will can save family members both time and money. Someone can avoid the entire probate process by establishing a living trust. Unlike a will, which describes the distribution of assets upon death, a living trust transfers ownership of those assets to the trust itself. The living trust is managed by a designated trustee for the benefit of named beneficiaries. By transferring ownership of someone’s property to a trust, their heirs or beneficiaries can avoid the probate process entirely.

Another way to circumvent the probate process is to designate a beneficiary for financial accounts who receives the account’s assets upon the death of the account owner—this is known as payable-on-death. In addition, when property is owned jointly by spouses, it does not need to go through probate; it will automatically transfer due to the right of survivorship. A Staten Island attorney could offer more insight into whether probate is necessary.

Contested Wills

Any heir, beneficiary, or creditor can contest a will. The most common reasons someone would contest a will include:

  • Fraud
  • Forgery
  • Incapacity
  • Improper execution
  • Coercion and undue influence
  • The existence of a later-executed will

Should the probate court find that any of the above circumstances exist, it may deem the will invalid. A Staten Island lawyer could help draft a will that reduces the possibility of possible contestations during probate. When contests arise, a legal professional could help with efficiently working toward a fair resolution.

A Staten Island Probate Attorney Is Here To Help

Distributing someone’s assets after their death can be a complex and emotionally charged process. An experienced Staten Island probate lawyer could advise you on the appropriate paperwork to file and provide support during the estate administration process.

We understand how overwhelming the probate process can be and want to assist our clients with resolving their loved one’s affairs in the most efficient and painless way possible. When you have questions about probate or estate administration, give us a call.