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Articles Posted in Probate

shutterstock_571088005-300x200In order for a Last Will and Testament to be admitted to Probate, the Surrogate’s Court must be presented with all of the papers needed to satisfy the requirements of the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law and the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act.  The document which initiates the probate process is the Petition for Probate.  This paper contains detailed information regarding the decedent, the Last Will, an estimate of the estate value, the names and addresses of the decedent’s distributees and the persons named in the Will.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles concerning the requirements for probating a Will.  EPTL Section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills” sets forth the mandated requirements for the due execution of a Will.  Prior to the COVID pandemic, the execution of a Will prepared and supervised by an attorney was a relatively straightforward process.  In short, the attorney, the attesting witnesses and the testator would gather together and have the various signatures applied along with a notary for a witness affidavit.  However, due to COVID this social interaction was prevented and New York passed certain legislation which allowed for remote execution of Wills.  However, the remedial statute presented explicit guidelines which, if not complied with, may compromise the validity of the Will.

A recent Queens estate case decided by Queens Surrogate Peter Kelly on February 23, 2022 entitled Estate of Holmgren dealt with the probate of a COVID rule Will.  In Holmgren, the Court reviewed New York Executive Order (202.14) which allowed remote execution.  This Order, as found by the Court, did not replace the requirements of 3-2.1.  Instead, the Court noted that the Order allowed the “use of audiovisual technology to satisfy the ‘presence’ requirements contained in the statute.”  The Surrogate went on to review in detail the various rules in the Order which needed to be followed to allow a COVID-type Will execution to form a basis for admitting a Will to probate.

Probate-300x201A Last Will and Testament in New York must be admitted to Probate in order for it to become effective.  The probate process involves the filing of a petition with the Surrogate’s Court along with additional documents.  Persons who are identified as distributees (the decedent’s next of kin) must be notified.  This is typically accomplished through the service of a Court issued Citation.  Distributees have a right to contest a Will.  The New York Probate Lawyers Blog has published many articles concerning the probate and administration of estates and contesting a Will.

Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements” provides the requirements for the proper execution of a Will.  In cases where the statutory steps are not complied with, an objection to a Will can be filed based upon lack of due execution.  For instance, two attesting witnesses are required.  If there are not two witnesses, a Will can be denied probate.

Other grounds for a contested Will include lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.  While it may seem initially that a Will that is attorney supervised and executed in accordance with the estate law should result in a simple rejection of objections by a Court, that is not always the case.

Probate-2-300x200When a person dies and leaves a Last Will and Testament, the validity of the document is subject to the probate process.  The estate laws and procedures provide that a probate proceeding be commenced in Surrogate’s Court.  Proceedings for the probate of a Will require that all of a decedent’s next of kin, referred to as distributees, must be provided with notice of the pending case.

In order to obtain Court jurisdiction over distributees, one of two things must occur.  Either a distributee voluntarily appears and oftentimes consents to the probate of the Will, or alternatively, the distributee must be served with a Citation which directs the distributee to appear in Surrogate’s Court and state why the Will should be objected to and denied probate.

Objecting to a Will or a Will contest involves different aspects of investigation.  A recent Queens estate case entitled Matter of Logan, decided by Queens Surrogate Peter Kelly on July 26, 2021, provides an insight into these areas of examination.  In Logan, the Court found that the Will was prepared by an attorney who also supervised the execution of the Will.  Due to these facts, the Court noted that a presumption arose that the Will was duly executed.  Execution of a Will must comply with Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 3-2.1, entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements.”  The Surrogate pointed out that since the Will also contained an attestation clause and a self-proving affidavit signed by the Will witnesses, a further presumption of due execution existed.

Probate-300x201Preparing a New York Last Will is essential in order to dispose of assets in an orderly manner.  A Will allows a testator to provide for bequests and devises of his personal property and real estate interests according to his intentions and desires.

Beneficiaries can be named and each one designated with an appropriate estate share.  The beneficiaries can be family members, friends or institutions such as charities.  Also, the dispositions can be outright or through a testamentary trust which may provide long term or specific oversight.  Executors can be selected as well as trustees and guardians for minor children.

Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements” sets forth the requirements for Will execution.  The legal mandates such as the need for two witnesses and the publication of the document must be followed with precision or the validity of the Will may be placed at risk.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog contains numerous articles regarding Surrogate’s Court litigation and Will contests.

Probate-300x201It is well known that writing an estate plan is essential to have an effectual distribution of assets at death.  A lot of time and effort can be expended creating a Last Will, Living Will, Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney that reflect a person’s desires and intentions.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous articles examining the planning of estates.

Additionally, it should be recognized that in order for a Last Will to be put into effect, the Will must be validated through the probate process.  This process requires that the Will be filed with the Surrogate’s Court and subjected to the review and procedures mandated by the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act and the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law.  One of the most essential aspects involved with probating a Will is the necessity to provide the proper notice to a decedent’s next of kin or distributees.  This requirement has been reviewed on many occasions in this blog and it is important to bear in mind.  A decedent’s next of kin must be given notice because they have a right to contest the Will.  In many cases if the purported Will is found to be invalid, the distributees are entitled to receive an intestate share of the estate which may be much greater than their interest under the Will.

The usual course of a probate case involves the issuance of a Citation by the Surrogate’s Court.  A Citation is like a Summons and informs the parties to whom it is directed to appear in Court on a date certain and provide any Objections to the Will.  The Citation must be served on the distributees in a manner provided by the statutes and Court directions.  Once proper service of the Citation occurs, the Court has jurisdiction to hear and rule regarding probate.

Probate-2-300x200A Last Will and Testament in New York must comply with the basic statutory requirements provided by the estate laws.  The primary statute regarding the fundamental aspects of Will preparation and execution is Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements”.

According to the statute, a Will is to be in writing, the testator is to sign at the end, and there must be at least two witnesses attesting to the signing.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous articles discussing the requirements for the due execution of a Will and different issues that might arise, particularly in the context of a Will contest.  In order for a Will to be admitted to probate, there must be a determination in the Surrogate’s Court that the document was duly executed.

The recent occurrence of the COVID-19 virus has made the ordinary execution of a Will difficult at times.  In the past, once an individual was ready to sign a Will, he or she would gather, usually in an attorney’s office along, with the witnesses and the signing ceremony would be conducted.  However, the COVID situation has created certain obstacles to the normal procedures due to lockdowns and social distancing.  A recent Orange County estate case decided by Orange County Surrogate Timothy McElduff, Jr. on December 7, 2020 entitled Matter of Estate of Bowen demonstrates the type of problems that the COVID pandemic can produce.

Probate-2-300x200It is an important role of estate planning to prepare a Last Will and Testament.  This document allows a testator to set forth in various provisions his desires as to the disposition of his estate.  Once a Will is admitted to probate, the terms become validated and the testator’s estate plan is effectuated.  It is then subject to being finalized by the executor settling the estate.

As has been discussed in a number of articles in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, that the Surrogate’s Court requires that the original Will be filed as part of the petition for probate.  The Court needs to see the original signatures of the testator and the attesting witnesses, as well as the Will provisions.  Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that after a testator dies, the original Will cannot be located.  Instead, usually a copy of a Will is found.  In these circumstances, Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act Section 1407 entitled “Proof of lost or destroyed will” must be referred to in order to resolve the issue regarding the probate of the copy.

A recent decision in a Manhattan estate case provides a good example of the issues presented in these types of cases.  Estate of Rothberg was decided by Manhattan Surrogate Rita Mella on September 25, 2020.  In Rothberg, the decedent’s son petitioned to probate a lost Will.  He was the sole residuary beneficiary and the named executor.  The proceeding was uncontested.  Apparently, after the decedent’s death, the petitioner-son received the original Will from the decedent’s attorney.  However, prior to filing it with the Court, the son lost the original.  There is a presumption that a Will that cannot be located after death was destroyed by a decedent with an intention to revoke it.  However, the Court in Rothberg noted that such presumption does not exist if the attorney had possession of the Will.

When a person dies and leaves a Last Will and Testament, it is necessary to commence a Probate Proceeding to validate the Will. Once the proceeding is complete, the Court admits the document to probate and letters testamentary are issued to the petitioner. The person who files the petition with the Court for probate is typically the individual nominated in the Will.

Probating a Will requires the submission of numerous documents and information including the names of all of the decedent’s distributees (next of kin) and an estimated value of the probate estate. Estate lawyers in New York are familiar with the Surrogate’s Court rules and requirements regarding probate.

Sometimes the full probate can be delayed due to various issues. If an interested person is seeking to Contest the Will then the final determination regarding the validity of the Will may take months or years. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles regarding Probate and Will Contests.

When a person dies and leaves a Last Will and Testament, it is necessary to commence a probate proceeding to have the Will validated.   Probate in New York requires that various documents be filed with the Surrogate’s Court.  The original of the Will needs to be provided along with an original death certificate.   The petitioner is typically the person named as the Executor in the Will.  A Probate Petition is prepared which contains information including the date of the Will, the names of the attesting witnesses, the estimated value of the estate and the names and addresses of all parties interested in the matter.  These parties include the decedent’s distributees (next of kin) and the beneficiaries named in the Will.

There are many situations that may delay admitting a Will to probate.  One common occurrence is a Will Contest.  If the decedent’s distributees file Objections to the Will, then estate litigation associated with a Contested Will can delay final probate for a year or more.

Another delay may result where it is difficult to identify or locate the decedent’s distributees.  If a due diligence search needs to be completed before probate, there may be a delay for many months.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles concerning Kinship, Probate and Will Contests.

When a person dies and the initial steps are taken to administer his estate, one of the first issues to be resolved is the domicile of the decedent.  Domicile is an interesting topic and the determination of domicile can be very complicated.  Essentially, it is the place where a person maintains a permanent and principal home to which he intends to return.  A person may have many residences but only one place of domicile.

For many aspects of estate administration domicile will determine which state’s laws apply to a decedent.  This determination can affect the rights of the various parties who have an interest in the estate and also which local tax laws can be applied.   An example is when a New York domiciliary dies, his Will is typically probated in New York and the New York estate and probate laws are looked to regarding estate administration.

Estate litigation can arise when an individual’s domicile is unclear.  While this issue can be determined by examining many factors such as where the decedent filed his local taxes or had a driver’s license, or the number of days per year spent in a certain state, the ultimate determination can be time consuming.  New York Estate lawyers deal with such matters regularly.

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