Approximation of the Steps of the Probate Process in Westchester County, New York
If you are the executor or personal representative of an estate, there are many different steps that you will have to take in order to successfully settle an estate. Because of the number of steps required and the risk of personal financial risk, you should enlist a Westchester estate attorney to assist you in fulfilling your duties correctly.
The first thing you must do is gather up personal papers and the will. It is likely that the attorney who wrote the will has the original and the decedent has a copy. Remember that you are under no obligation to use the same attorney who wrote the will to settle the estate. You will also want to gather up things such as safety deposit keys, deeds to any real property, inventories of assets and the amount in any bank or investment accounts.
Once you have this information gathered, you will need to file to be appointed executor (if there is a will) or administrator of the estate (in cases where there is no will) with the Westchester Surrogate’s Court and pay any fees. This will begin the process of probating the estate.
Once all the paperwork is submitted, the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court will issue Letters Testamentary, a process that could take months even assuming no one contests the will.
Once the Letters Testamentary have been issued is when the most work on the estate must begin. The law very specifically sets forth an order to how the assets of the estate must be paid out. Debts such as taxes, funeral expenses, lawyers fees, medical bills and credit card debt all have to be paid out in order and must be paid out before any gifts to beneficiaries. If you have not paid debts but have already paid beneficiaries, you will personally owe those creditors any money that is still owed that the beneficiaries cannot give back to you.
Once all the debts and taxes of the estate are paid, you may have to give the beneficiaries an accounting of how everything was paid out and give them a release to sign that would allow the estate to be settled. If they sign this, the property left to them under the will or through intestacy laws can be handed over. However, if any beneficiary has an objection to something in the accounting, it would have to be handled before the Surrogate’s Court.
Assuming that the beneficiaries are all in agreement, a final accounting may need to be made and the executor or administrator of the account would, with the help of their Westchester County estate attorney, file papers with the court asking that the estate be settled and probate be closed.
If you are going to be representing an estate in Westchester County, you want to make sure you have a Westchester estate attorney assisting you so that you can be sure that things are done correctly every step of the way. Call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (914) 293-2043.