Frequently Asked Questions: Probate in New York

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of paying a person's debts and expenses and distributing the remainder of the person's estate to those individuals designated by the deceased person's will, or according to the provisions provided by New York probate laws. Contact our knowledgeable probate lawyers serving Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Orchard Park, West Seneca, and the surrounding WNY areas to learn more.

How Do I Begin Probate?

Upon the death of a decedent, the decedent’s next of kin should follow some basic procedures. First, they should locate the decedent’s Will. Second, if they do find a Will, they should identify and contact the named executor in the Will. Third, they should hire an experienced probate attorney who can initiate court proceedings as soon as possible to protect and secure the decedent’s assets.

If the decedent’s next of kin discover that the decedent has died without a Will, they should begin to have an administrator appointed to oversee the distribution of the decedent’s assets. New York law will also help determine who can qualify to be an administrator. Give our experienced probate lawyers a call to start the process.

What is a Will?

A Will — or Last Will and Testament — is a document that tells the court, your heirs, and any other interested party who gets your estate when you die. You may also name the person or persons you want to appoint to administer your estate. The individual or individuals you name are called your “executors." If you have young children, you may also name a guardian to care for your children and a trustee to manage their finances.

How Long Does a Will Remain Valid?

A Last Will and Testament is valid until it is changed or revoked. This requires a review of your Will every few years or after major life events to be sure your Will is up-to-date. Major life events may include:

  • Marriage or divorce
  • Births or deaths in the family
  • Changes in the kind or value of the property you own
  • Death or relocation of your executor or designated guardians
  • You move to another state

What is the Role of an Executor?

An executor is the person named by the creator of the Last Will and Testament (the testator) to carry out the terms and provisions of the Will.

The executor's legal responsibilities include:

  • Initiate the probate of the Will
  • Collect and inventory the testator's assets
  • Collect debts owed to the estate
  • Pay claims against the estate
  • Distribute assets to the beneficiaries of the Will
  • Final closing of the estate

At Smolarek Law, we understand that handling any type of legal matter can be overwhelming. Our attorneys have years of experience in providing quality legal assistance for clients across Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Lancaster, Orchard Park, NY and the surrounding areas. Whether you're in need of assistance in drafting a will, estate planning, or with an elder law matter, we have all of the proper knowledge and skills to help. No matter the nature of your case, trust our law firm to be by your side every step of the way. Contact our law firm to schedule a consultation with one of our probate attorneys. We look forward to providing the innovative legal services that you deserve.