In New York State, the Surrogate’s Courts are tasked with handling disputes involving probate litigation. There are a variety of issues that can arise after a person’s death. For example, family members may contest the legitimacy or intentions of a decedent’s will. There may also be a need to determine who should be named as the executor and given the authority to administer the decedent’s estate. The Surrogate’s Courts might also examine evidence or testimony regarding individuals accused of breaching their fiduciary duties.
When a person dies in New York without first having formed a will they are considered “intestate.” Basically, that means that the Surrogate’s Court will automatically become the venue for deciding how that decedent’s estate should be distributed. Generally, the court will see that someone is put in charge of paying off the decedent’s debts, identifying potential heirs to the decedent’s estate and make an accounting of how those funds are distributed.
If you are currently considering estate planning, then you are already on the right track to avoiding potential probate litigation for your relatives and loved ones. Taking the time now to put together a sound estate plan can prevent future squabbles over assets and eliminate potential challenges to the validity of your will.
Your New York estate planning attorney can assist you in developing a probate resistant will. Your attorney can also help you draft your will so that the guardianship of your children will be entrusted to individuals you designate.
No one looks forward to the day that he or she is no longer able to make important decisions affecting the future of those who matter most. However, taking the now time to complete your estate planning can ensure that your final wishes are not left to the interpretation of the Surrogate’s Court.
Source: New York Life, “How the probate system works” accessed Feb. 10, 2015