When someone that you love dies, it can be an emotionally challenging time. The next steps — handling the details of the person’s estate — can often be overwhelming.
In New York, if a person dies with a will, the estate will likely go through what is known as probate. This legal process requires multiple steps, and compliance with a number of rules. For those tasked with the responsibilities of distributing the estate, probate can be a daunting task.
Fortunately, the Long Island probate attorneys of Winkler Kurtz, LLP are here to help. Since 1987, we have guided clients through this process smoothly and successfully. Our experience in probate allows us to confidently steer you through each step.
We know that after the death of a loved one, few people are equipped to deal with the intricacies and paperwork involved in probate. With our assistance, probate can be a relatively seamless process. Contact our office today at 631-928-8000 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation with a skilled Long Island probate attorney.
What is Probate?
In New York, probate is the method through which a last will and testament is deemed legitimate. Probate starts with filing papers in the local Surrogate Court. Under New York law, a will must only undergo probate if the assets of the estate are valued at $30,000 or greater.
During this process, all interested persons are given the opportunity to oppose the will before it is admitted to probate and the executor is appointed. If the will is not contested, the Surrogate Court will appoint the executor of the estate by issuing what is known as “Letters Testamentary.” The executor can then move forward with distributing the estate of the decedent.
There are multiple steps involved in the probate process, from the initial filing of documents with the local Surrogate Court (which is located in Riverhead here in Suffolk County) to winding up the estate and providing a final accounting. If the will is contested, it adds another layer of complexity to the matter. In these situations, a Long Island probate attorney can help individuals and families as they navigate probate.
How a Probate Attorney Can Help with the Process
If you have been appointed as the executor of an estate or are otherwise involved in an estate matter, it is important to seek legal counsel. The probate process can be complicated, and involves specific rules and duties that must be fulfilled under New York law.
This is particularly true for executors, who are typically appointed by the decedent (person who passed away) in their will. Executors have three primary functions under New York law: collect and take an inventory of the estate’s assets; pay the estate’s taxes; and transfer the assets of the estate to the heirs or beneficiaries.
An executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate, which requires him or her to perform their assigned tasks to the best of their ability, without any conflicts of interest or self-dealing. Executors are also considered beneficiaries under the will. However, an executor, you are forbidden to give any particular beneficiary — such as a favorite sibling, your child, or a spouse — preferential treatment in distributing the assets of the estate.
Executors are also prohibited from engaging in self-dealing, such as by purchasing an asset from the estate for less than market value. In addition, executors may be held personally liable if they breach their fiduciary duty, such as by distributing an asset that should have gone to a creditor. For these reasons, it is vital that executors seek counsel from a seasoned Long Island probate attorney, who can help guide them through the process.
Work with a Long Island Probate Attorney
If you have recently lost a loved one, you may be facing the prospect of going through probate in New York. Winkler Kurtz, LLP can remove the stress of this endeavor from your life by helping you with filing, accounting, distribution of assets and more. We will work with you to help you fulfill your fiduciary duties as an executor.
If you are involved in another estate matter, we can advocate for your interests, including contesting a will if necessary. Our experience and knowledge of New York probate law makes us ideal choices for your Long Island probate attorney. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact our office today at 631-928-8000 or contact us online anytime.