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Probate Administration Attorneys in Tonawanda, New York

If you’ve been named the personal representative in a last will and testament, and the person who executed the will passes away, you will have to go through probate court proceedings to administer the wishes of the deceased. Once probate begins, you will become the executor of the estate and be responsible for many tasks before the named beneficiaries can receive what the will promises them.

If a family member of yours dies without a will, known as dying intestate, the probate process will also most likely have to be followed unless the deceased estate totaled less than $50,000, then a process called voluntary administration can take place. In either case, probate or administration, the closest family member of the deceased can file for the proceeding.

When you become the executor of an estate and face probate proceedings, your list of tasks to be accomplished is fairly straightforward and even routine unless there are challenges to the will or to the proceedings in general.

In the case of challenges, you will often need to seek the guidance and counsel of an experienced probate attorney. Sometimes, even filing the paperwork required for probate court proceedings can prove to be challenging without the help of a knowledgeable attorney.

If you’re facing probate as an executor in or around Tonawanda, New York, or nearby in Amherst, Wheatfield, and throughout Erie County and Niagara County, contact the Law Office of Corey J. Rossi, PLLC. We can help you navigate the probate process and overcome hurdles, such as those posed by creditors or would-be beneficiaries, as well as help you file all the paperwork required by the court.

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Probate in New York

Every state requires those who die with or without wills (unless the estate is too small) to go through probate court proceedings to verify the validity of the will, or if there is no will, to determine according to the state’s intestacy laws who among family members are entitled to what. In New York, probate takes place in the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the deceased lived and died.

Essential to probate is the definition of estate and what comprises it. Generally speaking, a person’s estate is everything that the person owns that is not held jointly or already has a named beneficiary, such as real estate or a life insurance policy or 401(k).

Accordingly, assets held jointly or with a named beneficiary are not subject to probate proceedings and basically cannot be transferred in a will to a person other than the one named in the property title, bank account, or insurance or retirement policy such as a 401(k) or IRA.

Assets held solely in the deceased’s name are subject to distribution according to the stated desires in the person’s will or according to New York’s law of intestacy if there is no will. These can include other possessions, such as property held in their own name, cars, stock investments, art or other collections, and treasured family heirlooms.

Steps in the Probate Process

The first step in the probate process is for the executor to file the will, a certified copy of the death certificate, and a petition for probate with the Surrogate’s Court.

The next step is to mail a notice to all heirs (called distributees in New York legalese), beneficiaries, and creditors, informing them that probate proceedings are about to take place. 

Heirs-at-will who are left out of the will – say one child is ignored or overlooked – are then able to challenge the will on the basis that it was unintentional, coerced, or not done while of sound mind, Challenges can eat up time and resources and often need the help of a probate attorney.

Creditors can also press their claims. The payment of estate creditors is a primary obligation of the executor, which must be completed before any distributions can be made to beneficiaries. The executor must also file a final tax return for both state and federal obligations.

If there is not enough cash in the estate to handle debts and/or taxes, then the executor must dip into the next phase of his or her responsibilities, which is to inventory and collect all assets, get them appraised, and sell them as necessary to raise cash. On the flip side, if the estate is owed money, such as from rents or other financial agreements, the executor is responsible for collecting those funds.

The final step – once all debts and obligations have been satisfied and any challenges resolved – is to distribute the estate according to the decedent’s wishes as expressed in his or her will.

The precise rules governing probate in New York are set forth in the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) and the Estates Powers and Trust Law (EPTL).

The Administration Process for
Small Estates and Those Without Wills

If the deceased’s estate is valued at $50,000 or less, then probate can be avoided through a voluntary administration proceeding, but a petition must still be filed with the Surrogate’s Court. The filing should be done by the closest family member of the deceased. The same holds true if the decedent died without a will and the estate was small – the closest family member can file for an administrative proceeding.

Many of the same steps in probate will be involved in administration proceedings, including paying off taxes and debts, but if there is no will, the court will decide on the distribution of assets from the estate according to the laws of intestacy. 

If there is a will, then it will be administered according to the deceased’s desire. If the person’s only estate were real estate, then no administrative proceeding may be necessary since the property will pass directly to the joint titleholder.

Probate Administration Attorneys Serving Tonawanda, New York

Probate proceedings can go smoothly or be met with various hiccups before everything is concluded. Even when matters seem straightforward, the executor may find certain reporting requirements to be challenging. Worse, challenges can arise that threaten to derail everything. If you’re the administrator of an estate in or around Tonawanda, New York, and you need help navigating the process – or meeting the demands and challenges of family and creditors – rely on the Law Office of Corey J. Rossi, PLLC. Our attorneys can help you complete every step of the process and resolve all obstacles and challenges.