The probate administration process in New York allows an executor to resolve a deceased person’s estate. If you are in the process of creating an estate plan, you will need to select an executor to administer your estate. Or, you may recently discover that a friend or loved one has appointed you as the executor responsible for administering his or her estate during the probate process. In either case, understanding the probate administration process in New York can help you. At Law Offices of Barton P. Levine, we understand that going through the probate administration process can be challenging. We invite you to call us toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online to arrange for a free consultation.
What is an Estate Executor?
An estate executor is someone appointed in a decedent’s will to conduct the probate administration. In New York, an estate executor can be a man, a woman, a lawyer, a bank, or a trust company. The decedent is the person who died and his or her “estate” is all of the property and assets that the decedent owned. In New York, when a person dies without a will, or without appointing an executor, a New York probate court will appoint an executor.
Executors are entitled to a commission, or payment, for their services unless they waive their right to payment. Family members and friends who are appointed as executors often waive their right to payment, but professional executor services such as banks and trust companies will take a fee from the estate.
Whis is the Process of Probate in New York?
After a New Yorker passes away, the probate process must happen before the beneficiaries can receive any income from the estate. The Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act and the Estate Powers and Trust Law set forth the procedure for probate administration in New York. The probate process includes the following steps:
- The executor appointed in the will must file the will in a New York probate court. The executor needs to file the original copy of a will along with a certified copy of the death certificate. The filing must include the probate petition and any other supporting documents. The executor must pay the filing fee according to the size of the estate.
- After filing the will, any interested party who has objections to the will can challenge the will.
- Next, the executor must collect all of the belongings of the decedent and, if necessary, get them appraised.
- The executor must pay all outstanding taxes and debts, including home equity loans, mortgage payments, income taxes, property taxes, credit card debt, and any other obligations. When the estate does not have the liquid assets to repay obligations, the executor will need to sell assets or property in order to pay the debts.
- Finally, after the debts and obligations have been paid, the estate executor must distribute the remaining property as the will directs. When the will does not direct how to distribute the property, New York’s laws of intestate succession will govern how to distribute the property. The heirs of the estate should be listed in the probate petition. The probate court will serve the heirs or beneficiaries with a citation that requires them to submit to the Surrogate’s Court jurisdiction in order to collect their assets.
Common Complications with the Probate Process in New York
Sometimes the probate administration process goes smoothly. The executor files the petition, nobody challenges the petition, and the executor distributes the assets quickly according to the will or the intestate laws of New York. Unfortunately, in many cases, the probate process is not that simple or straightforward. One of the most common bumps in the road for probate administration happens when someone contests a will.
Will Contests During New York Probate Administration
A will contest is a challenge to the will. When an heir at law feels that the will is invalid, he or she can challenge the will in probate court. Unfortunately, will challenges can hold up the process of probate administration significantly. What are the grounds for challenging a will? The following are common reasons for challenging a will in New York:
- The testator did not properly execute the will, meaning the testator did not properly sign the will or meet the requirements for witness signatures.
- The testator lacked the testamentary capacity to sign the will, meaning he or she did not understand that he or she was signing a will
- The will contained a mistake
- The will was a result of fraud
- The will was a result of undue influence by another person
- The will was part of an insane delusion
- The testator signed the will under duress
What happens when someone challenges a will? Only the decedent’s distributees who would inherit money or next of kin have a right to contest a will. When someone challenges a will, the court will conduct proceedings. Both sides will present evidence for their arguments and the Court will then make a decision on whether or not to invalidate a will.
Trusts and the Probate Administration Process
Life insurance policies and properties owned by a living trust are not subject to the probate process. Also, when someone owns the property as a “joint tenant with the right of survivorship,” the property will pass automatically to the joint tenant after a decedent’s death. For example, if a husband and wife own a home in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, when the husband dies, the wife automatically owns the house without the need to submit a petition in the probate court.
Our Probate Lawyers Can Help
At Law Offices of Barton P. Levine, we have extensive experience with New York’s probate administration process. If you have questions regarding a probate issue, we can help. Call us toll-free at (516) 415-0696 or contact us online to arrange for a free consultation.