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When an individual passes away, his or her estate will go through a legal proceeding referred to as probate or estate administration. This is a court-managed process in which estate assets are managed and distributed.
At O’Connell and Aronowitz, our experienced attorneys are dedicated to helping individuals in Albany, Latham, Saratoga Springs and across upstate New York navigate the estate administration process. We routinely prepare wills, trusts and other estate planning documents and represent clients in probate courts. Our goal is to ensure your wishes are carried out, help to protect your assets and provide for your loved ones.
The Probate Process
Depending on the size of the estate, and whether or not there was a will in place at the time of death, administering an estate generally involves the following steps:
- Validating the will in probate court
- Appointing an executor
- Filing all required notices
- Inventorying and appraising estate assets
- Paying outstanding debts and disputing creditor claims
- Payment of estate taxes, if applicable
- Final distribution of assets to beneficiaries
What is a will contest?
At times, someone may object to the will in what is referred to as a will contest. This typically occurs when a recent will changes the distribution plan of a prior will, or when beneficiaries receive different shares under the will. A contest can also be brought against the person appointed as executor. We strive to avoid will contests, but if an objection arises during a probate proceeding, we encourage the parties involved to negotiate a settlement through mediation. If mediation is not successful, we are prepared to litigate the matter in probate court.
Does probate administer all of the estate assets?
Certain types of assets do not go through probate, including:
- Property in which title is owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship
- Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Bank accounts with Pay On Death (POD) designations
- Property owned by a living trust
Estate Administration Attorneys in the Capital Region and upstate New York
The Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning team at O’Connell and Aronowitz routinely represents executors through the probate process. We recognize that losing a loved one is a difficult experience and we offer you compassion, knowledge, and a superior level of personal service. We have extensive experience in the probate courts and routinely prepare the necessary filings.
Because probate administration can be a lengthy and costly process, we often advise clients on ways to avoid probate, such as by establishing a revocable living trust. If you need assistance preparing a will or a trust or have been named as an executor, call our office today at (518) 462-5601 for a free consultation.