After a person dies, there is a need to settle the estate of the decedent. If the decedent prepared a Last Will and Testament, then the Will needs to be probated.
The New York probate process can be complicated, especially if there is a Will Contest. One of the most important initial steps in Will probating is determining the identity of the decedent’s next of kin, who are also known as distributees. Surrogates’ Court Procedure Act (SCPA) section 103(14) defines “Distributee” as “any person entitled to take or share in the property of a decedent under the statutes governing descent and distribution.” The probate petition must contain information as to the names and addresses of the distributees since they are among the persons entitled to receive notice regarding the commencement of the case. They also have a right to contest the Will since the distributees receive an intestate share of an estate if there is no Will. Service of process is important because the probate of a Will is not valid against interested persons who were not properly notified about the case. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has extensively discussed probate and Will contests in earlier posts.
A person filing a probate petition with the Surrogate’s Court needs to refer to SCPA section 1410 entitled “Who may file objections to probate of an alleged will”. Under this statute, if a person who is interested in an estate would be “adversely affected” if a Will is probated, such person may be entitled to file objections to the Will. The statute must be examined carefully in each case to ascertain the identity of interested parties. Estate litigation is complicated. In addition to distributees, persons who may have received bequests in earlier Wills, but who are now disinherited in a later Will being offered for probate, may be necessary parties who must receive notice (a citation) in the proceeding.