Probate Lawyers in NYC, Helping With the Fair Distribution of Your Loved One’s Assets
Losing a loved one is a difficult time for anyone. Unfortunately, the grief of these situations is often accompanied by various responsibilities. These tasks include notifying other family members, clearing out properties, and planning a funeral. However, the responsibility of estate administration is likely the most stressful necessity. This will often include filing paperwork with the probate court, and that is followed up with the process of proper asset distribution of what your loved one left behind. This can be a tedious process, but it’s not one that you have to navigate on your own. A probate lawyer in NYC may be able to help.
At Marchese & Maynard, LLP, our New York City estate law attorneys have years of experience handling administration proceedings. This work has included extensive involvement in the probate process, so if you’ve got questions or concerns, we can help you decide how to move forward best. Our law firm can assist with identifying all estate assets, investigating debts, distributing assets, and much more. And since we understand that you likely have questions about the process, we also offer a free consultation so you can better understand what you’re facing. Contact us today to schedule a free estate evaluation with a professional at our law firm.
How Does Probate Law Work in New York City?
When someone dies in New York, probate administration is typically a necessary task. It’s the process of distributing the assets that a deceased person left behind. There is no deadline for filing probate in NYC, but starting the process as soon as possible is important. That’s because even straightforward cases will often drag on for months. An estate lawyer can simplify this process for you, but it’s still important to understand what you’re up against. It all starts with the executor filing the decedent’s will with the probate court — also known as the Surrogate’s court in New York City. If no will exists, the court will appoint an administrator.
The estate administrator or executor will then be responsible for various tasks. Distributing an estate’s assets is a primary concern, but they must also sort out the decedent’s finances. This means tracking down bank accounts, identifying assets, paying debtors, ensuring taxes are covered, and more. This is complex enough, but it can become even more complicated if there are unexpected assets — such as those garnered through a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Throughout this process, estate executors and administrators are overseen by the Surrogate’s court. They can’t do the job for you, though, so it’s wise to have an NYC probate attorney on your side.
Is It Possible to Avoid Probate in NYC?
One of the most common questions heard by every probate and estate planning attorney is if it’s possible to avoid probate altogether. In most cases, this is a tall order. There are a variety of ways to keep certain assets out of probate, but there will typically be some properties that have to go through the process. However, this may not be the case if the decedent left behind less than $50,000. Under New York City probate law, a Voluntary Administration proceeding is an option in such situations. This can simplify asset distribution and other necessities, but it’s often still wise to seek help from a probate lawyer in New York City for advice.
In addition to small estate proceedings, assets can also stay out of probate in the following ways:
- Have joint ownership in properties (e.g., real estate, businesses, etc.)
- Designate a beneficiary for bank accounts
- Designate a beneficiary for other “pay-on-death” accounts
- Put assets into living trusts or irrevocable trusts
- Give away properties
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to keep assets out of probate. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t shield them from the tax law. Additionally, it’s important to realize that all these strategies involve tasks that must be completed before a person dies. This is why speaking with an elder law attorney with experience in estate planning is so vital. And while having a will in place will not avoid probate, it will typically simplify the process. If someone passes on without taking these steps, though, it may be contingent on you to handle the complex issues involved in your loved one’s estate.
Regardless of whether proper estate planning took place, our probate attorneys in NYC can help.
What Is the Probate Process When There’s No Will?
If a person dies without a will in New York, it’s likely they have no estate plan to speak of. While they may have put all their assets into trusts, even those trusts could end up in dispute without a valid will in place. When someone dies in NYC without a will, they’re considered intestate. In such situations, someone must file paperwork to become the administrator before probate issues can be handled. There is a priority list of individuals who can do this; the first person with the right to do so is the deceased’s spouse. The administrator is typically the closest surviving family member under the law, but the decedent’s loved ones can also agree on an outside administrator.
Once an estate administrator has been assigned, they’ll take on the same duties as an executor. The main difference is that an executor is chosen by the decedent — while an administrator is assigned by the courts. Tasks such as tracking down assets, paying debts, and distributing assets must occur. Rather than properties passing down to an individual’s chosen heirs, though, New York law will dictate who receives what. This is why it’s so important for folks to speak with an estate lawyer while they’re still alive and able to make these decisions. And when these tasks fall on you in your loved one’s absence, our NYC probate law firm can help.
Do You Need an NYC Probate Attorney?
Every estate planning attorney in New York City will hear a certain question at least once a week: Do I actually need a probate attorney? This is certainly a valid question — particularly if your loved one left behind a clear last will and testament. However, it’s important to realize that estate administration is rarely straightforward. Before anything can take place, a will must first be ruled valid by the courts — assuming a will was left behind at all. Unfortunately, this isn’t always as easy as one might hope. Others hoping to access the decedent’s assets could claim that undue influence existed when the will was written.
There are many other hurdles that could pop up in this process as well, and these issues could land surviving loved ones in court. Fortunately, Marchese & Maynard, LLP also provides litigation services at our law firm. This means we can handle the heavy lifting when there are disputes over wills or who is entitled to inherit properties. In addition to dealing with potential litigation, we can also handle other probate issues that may arise. For instance, did you know that a handwritten will is only valid in certain circumstances? We can help you figure out if such a will is valid, and if not, we’ll assist with intestate probate.
It’s also worth noting that executors and administrators take on a fiduciary duty in their roles. While this may sound like just a fancy way of saying “distributing the estate,” the roles actually come with certain legal responsibilities. Importantly, you must realize that mistakes during the process could leave you facing criminal accusations or liability for damages. For instance, accidental improper transfers of real property might be viewed as fraudulent activity. Fortunately, such mistakes are easily avoidable when you have a probate lawyer in NYC on your side. Don’t fall victim to unnecessary estate litigation and other issues; reach out for a free consultation at our law firm today.
Contact Our Probate Lawyers in NYC Today
In a perfect world, estate administration would be a simple process. Everything in a decedent’s estate would go exactly where they’d intended. Unfortunately, probate isn’t always straightforward. Even when all of a person’s wishes are clearly laid out in their will, it’s still necessary for the Surrogate’s court to deem the document valid. And even after this is done, dealing with creditor claims and ensuring that assets are properly distributed can become tedious. For some, it drags on for years. This is made simpler if your loved one engaged in appropriate estate planning prior to their death, but even in such situations, having an experienced New York City probate attorney on your side can prove invaluable.
At Marchese & Maynard, LLP, we know you have a lot on your plate right now. We’re ready to take on some of that burden. Our years of experience in elder law, estate planning and administration, trust administration, estate litigation, and probate have given us unique insight into how these processes play out. We can simplify the duties you’ve been tasked with, so you can focus on grieving and caring for your family members. And since you can schedule a free consultation with our law firm, you have nothing to lose by reaching out. Contact us today by calling 646-362-8600 to speak with a probate lawyer in NYC. We’re ready to assist.