When you have a will, upon your passing, your estate will be probated with the Surrogate’s Court. A probate proceeding must be started in the Surrogate’s Court, especially where you own real estate and/or own personal property of $30,000.00 or more. Generally, the Surrogate’s Court, located in the county where you reside at the time of your death, has jurisdiction over the estate. Probating an estate means the Surrogate’s Court determines if your will is valid, all beneficiaries are given a copy of the will and have the opportunity to challenge it, appoints a fiduciary to oversee the estate, ensures the estate’s assets are distributed in accordance with your will, and all debts of the estate have been paid.
To commence a probate proceeding, the executor of your will files a probate petition for letters testamentary. The executor is the personal representative and fiduciary of the estate. The executor of your will retains us and we represent the executor in filing the probate petition. The ultimate goal of the executor, as well as the probate process, is to fulfill the decedent’s last wishes and distribute the decedent’s estate in accordance with their will. In addition, any outstanding debts of the estate must be settled.
Once the Probate Petition is filed, all issues have been resolved and the Surrogate’s Court recognizes the case may be heard, the Surrogate’s Court will determine whether the will is valid (remember, a valid will must be properly executed and accurately reflect the wishes of the testator), and, if such a determination is made, the Surrogate’s Court will issue an order granting letters testamentary to the executor. Letters testamentary give an executor the authority to act on behalf of the estate and distribute your assets as per your will.
The process of petitioning the Surrogate’s Court for letters testamentary is complex and overwhelming. In addition, as the fiduciary of the estate, you must ensure the assets are properly distributed and debts are paid-off; failure to do so, even if due to an inadvertent error, may result in personal liability. For these reasons, it is absolutely important that you are represented by an attorney.
As your attorney, we will work closely with you and the Surrogate’s Court in the following:
- Determining the beneficiaries and any other interested parties
- Identifying the decedent’s assets and property
- Properly completing all documents required by the Surrogate’s Court, including, the probate petition, inventory of assets, family tree affidavits, and accounting
- Paying debts
- Distributing property
We will guide you through the complex and detail oriented process that begins with filing the petition and ends with the Surrogate’s Court order closing out the estate.
The attorneys at James G. Dibbini & Associates, P.C. have over 20 years of experience in Wills, Trusts & Estates.
To learn more about probating an estate or if you have any other questions about Wills, Trusts & Estates, please feel free to contact us directly.