Probate Disputes

Death and Taxes are certainties, but disputes with your family members, and other distributees of an estate do not have to be. While we strive to avoid disputes through sound family planning, when a loved one dies, the loss often leaves a vacuum in the family dynamics that causes the death to be emotionally difficult, and the resolution of past and present grievances even more complicated.

At Klose & Associates, we work hard to investigate the situation, analyze the solutions and try to avoid the difficulties left by the new loss of a family member. Sometimes known as “divorce court for families,” we represent people involved in probate litigation and disputes before the Surrogate Courts in Rockland, Westchester and Dutchess County, aiming to establish a fair and prompt settlement of the estate through sound legal advice and a compassionate approach.

When a loved one dies and has a will, the first step is probating, or proving, the will. The Executor of the Will accomplishes this by submitting the will, a death certificate, and a list of the deceased’s assets and relatives to the court. Then, notices of petition are sent to the beneficiaries in the will, permitting them an opportunity to object to the terms of the Will or the capacity of the deceased (testator). In most cases, the wills are attached to affidavits, making them self-proving wills, and the probate is accepted, with Letters Testamentary issued. The court then permits the Executor to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties to collect and deliver the proceeds of the Estate under the terms of the Will. Usually, this means all the assets are put into an estate bank account, from which any debts and taxes are paid. A final tax return is made for the deceased as well as the estate, and an real estate is transferred or sold.

If there is no will, then the deceased’s estate goes through an alternate, but similar process called an “administration.” The Surrogate court appoints an administrator, who must go through a similar process to probate to settle the estate. In this matter, however, the administrator has the power to divide the assets according to statutes that have been in place for hundreds of years.

Over the years, we have found that probate and estate disputes arise from five common questions or problems:

  1. Was the person that died (the Decedent) of sound mind when they executed their estate plan or will?
  2. Did something fishy occur when the Will was produced to the probate court, i.e., is this the actual Last Will and Testament of the deceased; or was the Will authentic, forged or improperly signed and notarized?
  3. Who are legally entitled to receive the legacies of the loved one, and how much should they receive?
  4. Who should control the deceased person’s estate, e.g. being named the Administrator or the Executor of the Will?
  5. Did the Administrator or Executor do something incorrect, dishonest, or fail to fulfill his or her responsibilities to gather and distribute the assets in a timely manner?

When a will is contested, one or more parties make claims of invalidity based on testamentary ability, fraud, due execution, missing assets, or violation of fiduciary responsibility. Additionally, sometimes probate litigation comes up when one or more parties claim that the executor is the one who did something inappropriately, including failure to account accurate, dishonesty, or failure to realize the best values for the assets messing up administrative responsibilities like the liquidation of assets, stealing from the estate, or taking too long in settling the estate. Peter Klose can assist you with all of these important matters to ensure everything goes smoothly.

It is essential that a lawyer involved in probate disputes act ethically by advising you on all your legal rights in the case as well as offering you all your different options to resolve the disputes. Peter Klose can help answer these quandaries from a legal, practical and a compassionate point of view earned through the benefit of experiences in life and in court, with families and strangers. We can help de-stress and stream-line the process with an eye toward reducing legal costs.

Whatever your probate disputes include, Peter Klose can help you with your issues to fairly administer your loved one’s estate. Sound legal counsel can make this already difficult and trying time much easier and avoid painful family, financial, and emotional drama.

Accomplishing the daunting task of the administration of the Estate should not be difficult or excessively burdensome with the help of a seasoned attorney interested in a fair settlement of the estate. Contact Peter Klose to help you navigate the stressful world of settling estates.