When is the reading of the will?

Usually there is no formal “will reading” for the family. If you are the next of kin,
you hopefully are aware of the estate planning attorney that your family member
used. Please contact that attorney or law firm to inquire if there is a Last Will and
Testament and if you are the nominated Executor (person in charge of the estate)
named in the document.

What is Probate?

The process by which the ownership of the assets of a person who dies are transferred if there is no designated beneficiary.

How do we begin the process?

In New York a probate proceeding is commenced in the court known as the
Surrogate’s Court. Each county has its own Surrogate’s Court. To begin the process
you will need the original Last Will and Testament, if one exists. If there is no Last
Will and Testament, there are Estate Administration proceedings available to you as
well in the Surrogate’s Court

What does it mean if a bank or financial institution asks for “Letters
Testamentary”?

Generally, if a bank or financial institution asks for “Letters Testamentary” it means
that there is no designated beneficiary for that asset and you will need a court
proceeding to collect the asset.

What does it mean to be a “Designated Beneficiary”?

If you are named as a designated beneficiary of an asset, the asset becomes yours
without a court proceeding.

How do I collect an IRA or an Annuity?

If you are named a beneficiary of an IRA or an annuity, you can collect the asset
with a death certificate and without a court proceeding. However, please have the
financial institution confirm two things: what are your options to collecting the
account; and what are the income tax consequences to the collection of the account?

How do I collect an Insurance Policy?

You should contact the insurance company who will provide a set of forms to collect
the policy. You do not need a court proceeding to collect the policy if you are a
designated beneficiary.

What are the tax implications of receiving an inheritance?

First, you should consult your tax preparer if you are a beneficiary of an estate. And,
while the distribution of the actual inheritance may not be an income event for you
personally, the distribution may in fact “carry out” either the income or the excess
deductions of an estate to you which must be included on your personal income tax
return. In addition, as a beneficiary of the estate, you may share in the estate taxes
that may be owed to the IRS or NYS. Again, please be mindful of any assets that
you are collecting or receiving and consult a tax professional before you make any
decisions!

What if there is no Last Will and Testament?

If there is no Last Will and Testament, you will commence an administration
proceeding and the law will designate who will inherit the estate.

What are the costs involved of Probate?

There are court filing fees that are determined by the value of the estate, as well as
attorney fees to prepare the court filings. Please have the attorney you choose to
assist you advise you of these costs prior to their commencing any work on your or
the estate’s behalf.