Probate is the legal process by which a person’s final debts are settled and legal title to property is formally passed from the deceased to his or her beneficiaries and heirs. In New York, the probate process is initiated in the Surrogate's Court in the county of the decedent’s legal residence at death.
When a decedent's Last Will & Testament is admitted to probate by the court, the court must make a determination that the Will is valid. The court does this by carefully reviewing the Will and ancillary documents to confirm that it was properly executed. If the court is satisfied that it was done properly, the assumption is made that it accurately reflects the wishes of the testator and it subsequently passes through probate. It is only after this process that the proposed Executor has authority to act on behalf of the decedent.
When a person dies without a Will (intestate), someone must ask the court to be appointed as the Administrator to perform the same function as an Executor would. Most often, the person petitioning the is the surviving spouse or an adult child. If there is a dispute over who should serve as Administrator, the court will appoint the Public Administrator. The Public Administrator's fees are paid from estate funds.
There is no requirement that you hire an attorney to take care of a probate proceeding on your behalf. However, many probate matters are challenging and you would be better served by having an experienced probate attorney handle your case. Some complications that may arise include difficulty in locating interested parties for jurisdictional purposes, defects in the language of the Will and the potential for someone contesting the Will.
Please contact the Law Offices of Bernadette M. Crowley at (718) 423-5500 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.