Probate Proceedings

Probate is the legal process by which a Will is proved valid.

Before the property individually owned by a decedent can be distributed by a Will, it is generally necessary to initiate a probate proceeding in Surrogate’s Court in the decedent’s county of domicile, or may be commenced in the county where real property is located or a cause of action for wrongful death.

In these proceedings many decisions are made by the Surrogate Judge or by compromise of the interested parties as to how the estate assets will be distributed, including:

  • The validity of the Will offered for probate
  • Verification of decedent’s estate property
  • If there is no Will, the estate will be determined according to laws of intestacy
  • Time given to unpaid creditors of the decedent to make a claim against the estate
  • Any estate administration fees accrued will be paid

Effective administration of an estate through the probate process is vital. A probate attorney who is skilled in probate and tax laws can help you preserve the value of estate assets and protect your rights against claims to ensure proper distribution under a Will.

How to Contest the Validity of a Will

Even though a decedent may have left a Will, the estate may not be divided according to the specifications of the Will if it is shown to be invalid. There are times when the validity of a Will may come into question during a probate proceeding. The court generally allows time for anyone wishing to contest the validity of a Will to do so.

Grounds for contesting a Will could include:

  • Undue influence of another on the decedent at the time the Will was made
  • Finding a later Will, thereby nullifying the original Will
  • Incapacity of the decedent at the time the Will was made
  • Forgery of any signature on the Will
  • Improper execution of the Will

Will contests are often very emotional, highly charged cases. It is important to seek qualified legal assistance to help you through this very difficult time.

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