For most people, probate is an unfamiliar process that they are suddenly faced with after losing a loved one. In the midst of grieving, you’re trying to navigate a legal proceeding that involves paperwork and deadlines. That’s where a probate lawyer comes in. At the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., we help families in New York through probate and the entire administration process. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of handling the affairs of a deceased person (the decedent). A probate court—also known as a Surrogate’s Court in New York—supervises the administration of the decedent’s estate and ensures that everything is done according to state probate law. In New York, if the decedent dies with a Last Will and Testament, you will initiate a probate proceeding where all property passes according to the terms of the will. If the decedent did not have a will, then the process is called an administration proceeding, and New York intestacy law governs who gets the property.
In general, both types of proceedings involve the following:
- Identifying estate planning documents;
- Appointing an executor or administrator to handle the estate;
- Locating and valuing the decedent’s assets;
- Sending notice to creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries of the estate;
- Paying the decedent’s debts and taxes; and
- Distributing assets to legal heirs and beneficiaries.
In cases where the decedent died with less than $50,000 of personal property, you can file for a small estate administration. This is a simplified court procedure.
The probate process looks like a lot of work, and that’s because it is. Not every estate needs to go through probate, but for the ones that do, a probate attorney can make the process easier.
How Long Do Probate Proceedings Take?
No two probate proceedings are the same, so timelines vary. The length of the probate process depends mostly on how complex the estate is and when the Surrogate’s Court can schedule a hearing. Probate can range anywhere from a few months to several years. For example, if the estate has assets that are difficult to value or someone sues the estate, probate can become lengthy (and costly). However, a probate lawyer can expedite the process by properly filing paperwork and meeting the court’s deadlines.
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
Probate attorneys provide a range of services related to settling an estate. Most importantly, a probate lawyer can determine if probate is even necessary. Depending on what estate planning documents the decedent has in place, probate can be completely avoided. Here are different ways a probate attorney can help you.
General Probate Matters
A probate lawyer will look at the estate and decide if probate, administration, or small estate administration is necessary. From there, your attorney can complete all the necessary paperwork to start the probate process. The Surrogate’s Court is particular about documents being completed accurately and timely, and a probate lawyer will accomplish that for you. Here are some routine probate tasks that an attorney can help you with:
- Preparing and filing probate paperwork with the court;
- Identifying and valuing assets;
- Resolving tax issues;
- Notifying heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the estate;
- Coordinating the distribution of assets to heirs; and
- Communicating with the Surrogate’s Court.
An experienced probate lawyer can minimize the stress of the daunting to-do list that comes with probate.
Probate lawyers can assist with estates facing litigation. If you’re the executor and someone sues the estate, you will want to hire a lawyer to represent the estate. On the opposing side, if the decedent died with a will and you believe the document isn’t valid, a probate lawyer can file a petition challenging the will. Maybe you have evidence that the executor is abusing their power. A probate attorney can represent you in this matter as well.
Keep the Peace
Losing a loved one is an emotional time when strong feelings emerge. The strength of these emotions may impact decision-making and give rise to conflicts between family members. Having an attorney there to help with the probate process and explain the rights of everyone involved can reduce and even eliminate family discord.
How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?
The cost of a probate lawyer depends on a variety of factors, such as their experience, the complexity of the estate, and where the probate process is taking place. For example, if the estate has complicated tax issues or has a piece of real estate it needs to sell, then the attorney fees will be higher.
How the attorney charges for their services also impacts the overall cost. Most probate attorneys charge by the hour or require a flat fee. Some take a percentage of the estate’s value. It’s important to discuss payment before hiring a probate attorney, so there aren’t any surprises.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer for Probate Matters?
Although you’re not required to hire a lawyer for probate, you have the right to one, and their services are invaluable. Having someone to guide and advise you on the legal process can save time, money, and hassle. Probate and estate administration follow a strict procedure that can be overwhelming to someone unfamiliar with it. Let a legal professional handle the administration of your loved one’s estate so you can be with your family during a time of loss.
Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., for Your Probate Needs
You don’t have to go through probate alone. Whether you are the estate executor, a beneficiary, or have no idea where to start, we can help. Founding attorney Andrew Lamkin has been practicing law for 15 years and knows the complexities of New York’s probate laws. He serves clients in New York City, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Speak with an experienced Long Island and New York state lawyer today to discuss your case. Mr. Lamkin will gladly meet you in his office or at your home. Call or contact him online to schedule a free appointment.