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Wills and the probate process

Individuals in New York who are estate planning and preparing a will may wonder what is involved in the probate process. Every will must go through probate before assets are distributed to heirs.

Probate is a process that is intended to ensure that individuals involved in the estate are protected and that the wishes of the individual who prepared the will are carried out. An executor appointed by the deceased individual may oversee the probate process through the courts. If there is no executor, the courts will appoint an administrator for similar duties. Costs associated with probate include court fees, attorney fees and any administrator fees.

As part of the probate process, it is necessary to collect all the assets of the estate and pay off all the debts, settle disputes and distribute assets to heirs. Although probate is usually an uncontested process, on occasion, it might be contested. An individual might raise an objection if the will is improperly prepared or if there is reason to believe the deceased individual was improperly influenced by another or was not of sound mind at the time the will was prepared.

There are a few other considerations in the probate process. For example, it may be difficult to disinherit some family members such as a spouse.

Individuals who are preparing a will may wish to consult an attorney to assist in preparing a document likely to move more smoothly through probate. For example, an individual who specifically wishes to disinherit a family member may need to specifically mention this intention in the will. This will make the individual's wishes clear to the court. An attorney may also be helpful in other aspects of estate planning such as preparing end-of-life documents.

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