Probate and Estate Administration

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When someone dies with a Will, the Estate must be submitted to the County Surrogate’s Court for a process called Probate. Chaves and Perlowitz LLP encourages clients to explore using trusts to avoid the probate process altogether, but we offer a full range of services for clients who die with Probate Estates.

The Executor of the Will cannot act until he or she is formally appointed in the role by the Surrogate’s Court. Thus, a probate is required before property can be sold, taxes can be paid, and beneficiaries can claim their shares. The Executor is required to submit a Probate Petition, Court fees, and supplemental documents.
If there is no will at all, the Estate goes through a process called Administration, by which it is transferred to the next of kin. This is fairly similar to a probate proceeding, but the heirship must be proven to the satisfaction of the Court.

Chaves and Perlowitz LLP takes the guess work out of probate and estate administration for clients. We prepare the documents and handle the process from start to finish, keeping clients updated and informed along the way.


FAQ’s about Probate

  1. How long does the process take?This depends on the county and the circumstances involved. It typically takes anywhere from two weeks to four months from the date the probate petition is submitted to the court. It is important to remember that a significant amount of preparation is required before the documents get submitted to Court. A number of people will have to sign documents. Therefore, it may be weeks between the time the law firm is retained to handle a probate and the time it gets submitted to Court.
  2. Who has to sign off on the probate process?Everyone in the next of kin has to sign a waiver and consent to probate form, regardless of whether they are mentioned in the will or slated to inherit assets. Typically, this means blood or legally adopted children and/or the offspring of any deceased children. If someone dies without children, it can mean a spouse, parents, siblings, or even cousins.
  3. What if the estate is very small?New York State defines a “small estate” as one under the amount of $30,000 and there is a special abbreviated proceeding for that. All other estates go through the standard probate process.
  4. What if a decedent had a safe deposit box?There are special Surrogate’s Court proceedings to open a safe deposit box. Typically, an officer of the Court goes to the bank to collect the items for safe-keeping and release after a probate or small estate proceeding.
  5. Which assets have to go through probate?
    Real estate has to go through probate. Vehicles, depending on their value and the circumstances, go through probate. Bank and investment accounts that do not have designated beneficiaries go through probate. However, any account that designates beneficiaries automatically avoids probate.
  6. What if a decedent owned a house in New York and another house in another state?
    When the New York probate is complete, the Executor will have to do a second “ancillary probate” in the county in the second state.