Probate is the legal process of proving the validity of a decedent's last will and testament and administering or "executing" that person's estate. The purpose of probate is to ensure that no one can take advantage of the estate, and there is little room for fraud. The probate process involves gathering and itemizing the decedent's assets, paying any outstanding debts, and distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
When a loved one passes away, and you're the executor or a beneficiary of the estate, you may think you don't need an attorney. And that's true in New York if the estate is small—generally less than $50,000 in money and assets. Small estate administration simplifies the court process by letting you file an "Affidavit of Voluntary Administration" form—also called a "Small estate affidavit." But generally, most estates are not small, and many are complicated, with the decent having a blended family, step-children, and multiple assets and properties. Some may die without a will or trust. That's why you need the skilled probate and estate administration attorneys at Landskind and Ricaforte Law Group, P.C.
How a New York Probate Attorney Can Help Their Clients
It's important that an estate plan is properly executed for it to be probated successfully. Because there are so many details and fine points that must be addressed accurately, it's important that you work with a probate attorney to help ensure the estate doesn't fall victim to a contest by the beneficiaries or heirs.
Benefits of Hiring a Probate Attorney
- An attorney can collect and file important paperwork to meet important deadlines
- An attorney can help determine any outstanding debts, including utility bills, car payments, taxes, and mortgage payments
- An attorney can review the existing will and help determine its authenticity
- An attorney can perform a search for missing family members and create a genealogy report
- An attorney can prepare and file a probate petition
- An attorney can fight a will contest or challenge
- An attorney can get appraisals of the decedent's property
- An attorney can help distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries
- An attorney can have property and other assets retitled
Probate can be a very complicated process, and hiring a probate lawyer can provide added protection for all legal documents and necessary tasks involved in administering the estate. Having a lawyer handle the estate also helps ensure impartiality. They have no stake in the game—no personal involvement or interest in the estate. It's their job to make sure it's managed according to the laws of New York, not according to any one person's expectations.
When There Are Problems Between Heirs
It's very common for there to be animosity between family members when an inheritance is involved. Everyone wants their fair share of the estate, and sometimes, the parties are unable to communicate with each other amicably and reasonably. Often, a probate attorney can act as a mediator between family members so that inheritance matters can be settled efficiently and with mutual agreement.
Possible Reasons for Family Disputes
- A family member believes the decedent was subject to undue influence by another person when writing the will
- A family member believes the will was forged or fabricated
- A family member believes the decedent did not have the mental capacity to fully grasp what they wrote in the will
Any dispute can lead to a time-consuming court process and use up money meant to be left to heirs and beneficiaries. A probate attorney can help steer both parties in a positive direction to hopefully settle their differences about their inheritance.