Surrogates Court Practice
The Surrogates Court is the location where a wide variety of matters are handled relating to decedent’s affairs. The basic proceedings in the Surrogates Court concern the processing of a person’s estate. The proceeding could either be a probate proceeding, where the decedent had a Will, or an administration proceeding, where either the decedent died without a Will, or the document thought to be a Will cannot be recognized as the Last Will and Testament.
Most frequently a Will is admitted to probate without any complications. In that case, a person petitions for the Court to recognize a certain document as decedent’s Last Will. Usually the petitioner is the person nominated as executor in the Will. Assuming the Will is “admitted to probate” the executor will have some significant responsibilities, which include contacting persons who would have shared in the estate in the absence of a Will, who we call heirs at law, and obtaining their consent to the admission of the Will, and like administrators in the absence of a Will, collecting assets, safeguarding property, paying bills, eventually making distributions, and finally, providing an account of their handling of the financial affairs of the estate to interested parties. Additionally, executors and administrators are sometimes called upon to handle both estate tax and income tax matters.
This firm will provide hands-on assistance to executors and administrators in carrying out these complex and often time-consuming duties.
Sometimes a probate proceeding is complicated by an objection to the Will which may be made on several grounds, including lack of capacity, undue influence, duress, or a failure to follow the legal steps required for the due execution of a Will. This firm has had experience in objecting to Wills offered for probate and in defending against such objections.
Even if you are not the nominated executor or administrator, you may require legal assistance as a creditor of the estate, or as a person otherwise financially interested in the estate such as a legatee under the Will or as an heir when there is no Will. In those circumstances you may require legal assistance in an accounting proceeding or a kinship proceeding.
In an accounting proceeding, you may seek legal advice because you feel that the executor or administrator failed to provide a detailed account of the financial management of decedent’s estate, or perhaps failed to live up to his or her fiduciary obligations as they relate to the taking of fees or commissions.
Kinship proceedings provide an avenue for heirs at law to assert their claim to an estate if their relationship to the decedent has not already been determined or acknowledged by the administrator.
Our firm is qualified by our lengthy experience to assist you in all phases of probate, administration, accounting and kinship proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court.