06/25/2018










Are Probate Records Public Records?

signing willProbate court is a legal process that follows a person’s death. It goes through various stages to help settle the estate, handle any outstanding debts, and distribute assets to named beneficiaries.

Probate records are public records. These include everything from a will to estate inventories, letters of administration, and any document related to the estate’s administration and settlement. These records also contain information on the deceased, identities of the heirs, and any legal actions associated with the estate. They are available via public databases through each state, and the courts are typically held by the state’s court archives.

What Types of Probate Records are Kept in Plainview, New York

Each state has a system for what records they keep and what can be accessed. In New York, the following probate records are part of the public search:

  • Surrogate Court Records: After May 1787, all county surrogate courts have their probate records on file. There is a complicated index for these records, and if you need to search, the surrogate’s court is usually the first place you will be directed to.
  • Probate Packets: Probate packets are the entire estate file. These have copies of the documents related to the estate’s settlement, including administration, inventories, and bonds.

How Do People Access Probate Records?

Receiving a copy of the deceased’s last will or other probate records is relatively easy because these are private documents available to the public. Probate files are part of the court record, and copies are available for a small fee. Sometimes you can access an entire person’s estate online – without a fee at all.

While you do not have access to the exact details of the will, you can review other documents including the name of the executor, heirs, attorneys of record, and the judge that oversaw the case. Some court records will also provide access to all names and contact information for creditors, beneficiaries, and allow copies of those documents.

What if I Do Not Want My Court Records Publicized

Unfortunately, the only way to avoid having your entire estate a matter of public record is to plan early on. Probate court is an open process, and anyone could review these records to determine how much your estate was worth – and some documents tell what beneficiaries inherited and how much. Because most people would rather keep their probate records private – and protect beneficiaries – the first step to avoiding this is to not go through probate.

Any time an asset is passed through a will, it is subject to probate. Probate is not only a hassle because your information is now public, but it is expensive and time-consuming – and entirely unnecessary for a modern estate.

Why Work to Avoid Probate?

Probate is expensive and lengthy. Therefore, your beneficiaries will not receive their inheritances right away, and probate courts typically cost five to 10 percent of the value of the estate assets. Some estates take up to one year to process through – and if there are any will contest they can take much longer.

You have designed an estate plan to protect loved ones and ensure they are taken care of; therefore, your last step is to help them avoid probate entirely.

If you think it is not an issue to have your estate a matter of public record, consider this: after probate is filed, any creditor can look up the estate and start petitioning the court for money. Therefore, the amount your beneficiaries receive can decrease even further. The process of fighting these claims will drain the estate and put an unnecessary burden on your loved ones as well.

You do not have to go through probate – so why bother?

Instead, you can speak with an attorney and work to avoid the entire hassle and cost of the probate process – and protect your loved ones.

Creative Tools that Are Effective in Avoiding Probate

No estate is required to go through probate, but to do that you must implement a variety of tools. Some of the more preferred ways to do this include:

  • Revocable Living Trust: This is the more popular method for avoiding probate. You establish a trust, control assets while alive, and then the assets are distributed probate-free upon your death.
  • Creating Beneficiary Deeds: A beneficiary deed is a real estate document that allows you to transfer property, like your family home, upon your death. The transfer takes place, and there is no reason for probate. You can send it to any jointly owned property, such as a home you share with your spouse.
  • Transfer Upon Death (TOD) Designations: You can also use the transfer-on-death designation through your personal property like vehicles, trailers, motorcycles, and other personal items. There are limitations on what property you can legally TOD; therefore, speak with an attorney.
  • Payable Upon Death: These designations are tied to financial accounts, such as life insurance, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. You can pick a beneficiary, and the institution that oversees the asset would automatically transfer upon your dearth.

Hiring an Attorney is the Best Option

If you truly want to avoid probate, you have a few options, but not all will apply to your situation. Therefore, the best place to start is by contacting an attorney in the area and exploring your options. An attorney, like the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., will go over the options you have, your estate, and find the best way to transfer assets to loved ones all without becoming a public record in surrogate’s court.

Schedule a free consultation today by calling 516-605-0625 or request more information online.



Like us on facebook