Questions to Ask a Probate Attorney

It is usually bad news when someone has to call a probate attorney.  Typically, a loved one has died, and a probate case needs to be opened to sort out how to divide the decedent’s property.  This can be a particularly emotional time for people who simultaneously have to deal with their grief and a complex legal process.

William A.  Simon is a well-known Manhattan attorney for wills, trusts and estate who has more than 40 years of experience meeting the needs of clients throughout New York.  He fields many questions from people who call about probate cases.  Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers about probate in New York.

1. How much of your practice is devoted in probate law?

Some lawyers “dabble” in probate law.  They may know some basics about the process, but they may not have an in-depth understanding of the probate process or may not keep up-to-date with recent changes in the laws.  They may make mistakes that can lead to substantial personal liability on the executor.  Even if they do things properly, they may take longer than a seasoned probate lawyer in New York would take because of their inexperience with this type of law.  When considering which probate attorney in New York to hire, be sure that the lawyer you select is someone who is experienced in probate law.

William A.  Simon has spent more than 40 years developing expertise in the areas of estate planning, wills, trusts and probate law.  His practice is focused exclusively on these practice areas, allowing him to develop an intimate knowledge with the laws, courts and processes probate involves.  He can handle a routine probate case, as well as more complex matters.

2. If my loved one did not have a will, do we need a probate case?

The need for probate is not based on whether a person did or did not have a will.  Most estates in New York require probate unless the decedent owned no property at the time of his or her passing or had personal property less than $50,000.  If the decedent had a will, the executor should follow the instructions of the will.  If the decedent did not have a will, New York’s intestacy laws will apply and the property will pass to the relatives most closely related to the decedent.

3. Which court will handle the probate case and what is your experience with this court?

The Surrogate’s Court in the county where the decedent was domiciled will handle the probate case.  If the decedent lived in another state at the time of his or her death but owned property in New York, an ancillary proceeding may be initiated in the county where the property is located.

William Simon routinely practices in New York Surrogate’s Courts.  He understands the individual nuances of each court he appears in and knows the rules so that he remains in the court’s good graces at all times.  When you select a New York probate attorney with experience in particular Surogate’s Courts makes the probate process run more smoothly and faster.

4. How long will it take to complete the probate process?

Every probate case is different and may involve a slightly different timeline.  If there are no disputes among the surviving family members, the process usually takes less time.  However, if there are court challenges or allegations of misconduct, the case will take longer.

William Simon thoroughly prepares for every case he handles.  He takes the time necessary to learn about all of the facts involved in each case he works on so that he can gather the information that he needs and can provide accurate information to his clients.  After describing your case to him, Mr. Simon can give you an approximate time frame of how long he predicts your case will take.

5. What can you do if problems arise during the probate process?

Because probate cases involve complex family dynamics and money, problems sometimes arise during this process.  There may be allegations of undue influence, coercion or lack of mental capacity that must be resolved before the estate is administered.  Creditors may make claims that the executor does not believe to be valid.  Valuation problems may arise.  Your lawyer can review the circumstances surrounding the legal problem affecting your particular case and give you targeted legal advice.  He can also represent your interests in court, if necessary.

6. What assistance can you provide executors?

William A.  Simon has prepared probate cases for over four decades.  He meets with executors, admits the will to probate, prepares filings with the court, provides proper notices as required by laws and assists the executor in preparing inventories and other tasks for the court.

7. What assistance can you provide family members of the decedent?

If a family member believes that a will is not valid or that the executor is not properly handling the estate, William A.  Simon can.

8. Have you worked on a case like mine and what was your experience?

If you are dealing with a complex legal issue, ask your
New York probate attorney about their previous experience with this issue and how they resolved it.

9. How do I pay for services?

Lawyers may charge in a variety of ways, including charging a flat fee, by the hour or by contingency.  Some may take a percentage out at the end of a case while others bill on a monthly basis.  William A.  Simon will discuss the billing process he uses with you during your initial consultation.  This information is also discussed in the retainer fee agreement you will sign with him.  We understand the importance of being able to anticipate these costs to meet your own financial needs and provide transparency at all times.

You can ask any other questions you have during a confidential consultation.  Mr. Simon will approach your case with sensitivity and respect for what you are going through while being the legal advocate that you need during this difficult time.