Estate Administration & Probate FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Probate and Estate Administration

Helpful Information When You Have to Take a Will to Probate

When a loved one dies, the process can quickly become complex and confusing. You may have heard the term “probate,” but have no idea what it means or what your responsibilities may be. While this page answers some basic questions about the probate process, the best thing you can do is immediately retain the services of an experienced probate administration attorney. Bonnie Lawston can help.

At the Law Offices of Bonnie Lawston, P.C., we bring nearly three decades of experience to individuals and families across Long Island and throughout the state of New York who have need assistance with the administration of a loved one’s estate. We work closely with anyone with a potential interest in an estate, including heirs or beneficiaries, executors, personal representatives and other fiduciaries. To schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us at (631)425-7299.

Answers to Commonly Asked Questions about Estate and Probate Administration

Q: What is the purpose of the probate procedure?

A: The probate procedure is the court procedure designed to ensure the orderly administration of an estate in accordance with the decedent’s wishes. The probate process accomplishes a number of objectives:
  • The probate court will determine whether a will is valid
  • All parties with a potential interest in the estate will receive notice of the probate proceedings
  • Creditors of the estate will have the opportunity to file claims against the estate and receive payment of those claims
  • After the administration fees and creditor claims are paid, the assets of the estate will be distributed in accordance with the terms of the will

Q: What strategies are available to preserve assets of the probate estate?

A: An experienced estate attorney can help you identify many potential ways to preserve probate estate assets. Specific strategies that may be available to you include:

  • Determining whether administration expenses and casualty losses should be reported on the estate tax return or on the estate’s income tax return.
  • Identifying any income tax savings opportunities on the decedent’s final return (such as whether or not a joint return should be filed with the surviving spouse).
  • Considering whether assets should be valued at the date of the decedent’s death or six months later (or, if the assets have been distributed prior to six months after the decedent’s death, the date of the disposition of the assets).

Q: What is a will contest?

A: A will contest is a legal proceeding wherein you can either challenge the validity of a will and/or any of the terms of the will. Common reasons a will may be declared invalid include situations where there is evidence of forgery, undue influence or failure to comply with formality requirements. In addition, a subsequent will may render an earlier version invalid.

Q: What are non-probate assets?

A: Non-probate assets are those that transfer without going through the probate process. As a general rule, most property that passes by will must pass through probate. Examples of non-probate assets include proceeds from life insurance policies, retirement funds (IRA, 401(k) or similar assets), taxed deferred retirement plan accounts with a named beneficiary or property owned jointly with others (such as a bank account, car or house).

Q: What role does the executor play in the probate process?

A: The duties of the executor include:

  • Initiating the probate proceeding
  • Collecting and inventorying assets, as well as any debts owed to the estate
  • Notifying all parties with an interest in the estate, including creditors and beneficiaries
  • Identifying and paying debts owed to the estate
  • Distributing assets to the estate
  • Closing the estate.
Because of the considerable details and many technical requirements involved in the administration of an estate, attorneys experienced in probate and estate administration are often employed to guide the estate through the probate process. The executor, however, is entitled to compensation for time and expenses spent during the process.

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Q: What are the advantages of keeping an estate out of probate?

A: The probate process can be slow and can often tie up property for months or even years. Probate can also be expensive, with probate attorneys typically taking a percentage of the value of the estate (7% is customary).

Q: What strategies are available to avoid the probate process?

A: An experienced probate and estate administration lawyer can help implement a number of measures to keep property out of probate:

  • You can retitle certain assets, such as real property and motor vehicles, so that it is owned jointly with a right of survivorship—such property passes immediately to other joint owners without the need to go through probate
  • You can name specific beneficiaries on payable-on-death (POD) accounts and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts
  • You can create a revocable living trust and transfer property to it. Any property owned by the trust will not be affected by your death

Contact the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, P.C.

At the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, we have successfully worked with individuals in Nassau County, Suffolk County and across the state of New York for nearly 30 years. We focus our practice on matters related to probate and estate administration, working with New York residents, as well as out-of-state executors of New York probate estates.

We provide special discounts to SUNY members, as well as members of the armed forces, police officer, firefighters and health care workers. We also offer a senior citizen discount. Our offices are located in Huntington and Brookhaven, but we will come to your home to meet with you, if necessary.

To set up a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call attorney Lawston at 631-425-7299.

Probate Estate Administration Attorney, New York

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