In New York State, the Surrogate's Court has jurisdiction over probate matters or the administration of a decedent's estate under a will. The judge who presides over the Probate Court is called the Surrogate.
One of the primary functions of the Surrogate's Court is to determine the validity of a decedent's will. In addition, the Court oversees the Executor, who is charged with:
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Paying taxes
- Debts and expenses
- Providing an accounting to the beneficiaries, either formally or informally, as circumstances warrant
The Surrogate's Court also ensures equitable distribution of assets and property of individuals who die intestate, or without a will, in accordance with New York State laws.
An individual's wishes regarding his or her estate should be set forth in a will or in a trust. A trust involves a similar administrative process to a will, but unless contested, is a non-probate document administered without court oversight.
We do everything legally possible to maximize the value of the estate through post-mortem tax and estate planning.
We also represent parties in Surrogate's Court who litigate to resolve claims by or against the estate, which may include determination of a fiduciary's duty or whether actions taken under a power of attorney were appropriate. In some cases, family members may wish to contest a will based on undue influence, incapacity or fraud. Likewise, claims of creditors are subject to litigation.
In addition, we represent trustees and beneficiaries in litigation:
- To resolve disputes over interpretations of provisions of a trust
- Timely or proper distributions
- Alleged breaches of fiduciary duties
- Trustee compensation
- Other issues in conflict