Estate Litigation and Surrogate’s Court Practice

estate_litigation_thumbWhen a person dies owning property in his or her own name, that is known as an estate. In New York, the Surrogate’s Court has jurisdiction to hear estate proceedings. Estate Litigation and Surrogate’s Court practice involve many different types of court proceedings, from routine matters to highly complex litigation. Our law firm has the experience and expertise to handle these matters efficiently and competently for you.

These matters include but are not limited to:

Probate

When a person dies having a will, that is known as dying, “testate”. In order for a decedent’s property to be able to pass to the persons designated in the will, a probate proceeding must be commenced in the Surrogate’s Court by the person named as Executor in the will. These proceedings can become complicated because before probate can be completed, the Decedent’s heirs (distributees) must consent to the probate of the will or be served with process whether or not they have been named in the will. We represent our clients from the commencement of the proceeding, through its completion as well as assisting in the marshaling and distribution of the decedent’s property.

Will Contests

When the validity of a will is objected to, a will contest results. The validity of a will can be challenged for a variety of grounds including, the improper execution of the will, the mental capacity of the decedent, or that the will was made as a result of fraud or undue influence asserted upon the decedent. Will contests involve gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and examining parties to proceedings, to prepare for trial in order to properly represent a client. We represent clients both in proceedings to object to a will as well as in proceedings to defend a will contest.

Administrations

When a person dies without having a will, that is known as dying, “intestate”.

New York State law sets forth who is entitled to share in an estate when a person dies intestate. The person petitioning the Surrogate’s Court in an Administration proceeding is seeking to be appointed Administrator by the court. We represent our clients from the commencement of the proceeding, through its completion as well as assisting in the marshaling and distribution of the decedent’s property.

Miscellaneous Proceedings

We represent our clients in a variety of miscellaneous Surrogate’s Court proceedings, such as the disposition, sale or mortgage of a decedent’s real property; proceedings to open a safe deposit box; proceedings to discover property or information concerning property owned by the decedent and held by another person.

Kinship Proceedings

Sometimes it becomes necessary to demonstrate to the court that a person is an heir of the decedent or that there are no other heirs of the decedent. The evidence that is presented to the court involving testimony and documentation is called a kinship hearing. We work with our clients and genealogists to gather the evidence needed to properly present our case to the court.

Spousal Right of Election

A surviving spouse is entitled to share in the estate of their deceased spouse even if the deceased spouse did not leave anything to them. We work with our clients to enforce their legal rights as surviving spouse.

Guardianships

There are several types of guardianship proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court. They include guardianships of minor children and guardianships for Mentally Retarded and Developmentally Disabled Persons. These proceedings are different than Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 Proceedings which are New York Supreme Court proceedings. We competently and compassionately represent our clients in these proceedings.

Accountings

Before the administration of an estate is completed, the personal representative of the estate must account to the beneficiaries for his or her management of the estate. This can be done in an informal manner with the exchange of information among the parties. In some instances, where the parties disagree or there are minor children involved, a formal accounting may be required to be filed with the Surrogate’s Court. We work with our clients in the preparation of the accounting, whether it is an informal accounting or formal accounting, to assist with the final disposition of the assets of the estate. We work with beneficiaries of an estate to seek to compel a personal representative to formally account to them where they cannot resolve the matter informally.

You should contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate litigation needs.