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Syracuse, New York Probate, Trust & Estate Administration / Litigation

One of The Marrone Law Firm's primary goals is to assist our clients in preparing an estate plan that prevents any unnecessary probate and the additional expenses of Surrogate's Court. However, for those who have not done the planning required to avoid probate, or if disputes arise regarding a deceased or incapacitated person's affairs, it may be necessary to initiate a proceeding in Surrogate's Court. Our law firm can make these difficult processes easier and prevent you from making costly mistakes.

New York Probate Administration

We advise heirs and fiduciaries on the process of probating estates in Syracuse, New York and counties throughout Central and Northern New York. Probate administration is available in every county in New York State and may include:

  • filing the petition for appointment of the executor
  • preparing and filing the inventory of estate assets
  • paying the decedent’s debts
  • distributing assets
  • filing estate and income tax returns, and
  • filing an accounting with the Surrogate’s Court.

Trust Administration

A properly drafted and funded trust will generally avoid probate. The trust need not be filed with the probate court. Nonetheless, there are still steps necessary to administer the trust:

  • beneficiaries must be contacted
  • assets must be gathered, valued and managed
  • potential creditors must be notified
  • debts, taxes and final expenses must be paid, and
  • ultimately, any remaining income and assets must be distributed in compliance with the trust terms.

Successor trustees often lack the time, resources or knowledge to personally administer the trust, and therefore may call upon legal, accounting and investment professionals for assistance. Oftentimes, a corporate fiduciary (e.g., a trust company) is an excellent alternative to relying solely on busy family members or friends to serve as trustee.

Will and Probate Contests and Trust Disputes

We represent parties who intend to file objections to the probate or other litigation related to probate of a Last Will and Testament in Syracuse, New York and every county in New York State. We also defend fiduciaries against these objections in contested probate litigation. Additionally, we represent litigants in each phase of a trust dispute, including contesting the validity of a trust, removing a trustee, and accounting proceedings in every county in New York. We also represent several banks and financial institutions in their capacity as corporate trustee across Syracuse, New York and New York State.

Probate Avoidance

Because probate can be a lengthy, costly and public process, many people choose to avoid it. There are a number of legal strategies that will allow you to pass property to another person after death, without going through probate.

Joint Tenancy & Tenancy by the Entirety

Adding another person to your assets as a joint owner or "joint tenant with rights of survivorship" will allow your property to pass to them upon your death without going through probate. There are pitfalls to this strategy, however, which include subjecting the assets to any claims (such as lawsuits) against the co-owner and making them available to the co-owner's creditors — all while you are still alive and planning on using the assets yourself.

Beneficiary Designations

New York allows Transfer on Death (TOD) or Pay on Death (POD) beneficiary designations to be added to bank accounts. Beneficiary designations like these are preferable to joint tenancy in that they allow you to transfer property only upon your death without giving away current ownership. One of the drawbacks, however, is that it can be difficult to obtain an equitable distribution of property among your heirs by utilizing beneficiary designations. Additionally, understand that if you have beneficiaries listed on your assets, those assets will be distributed upon your death to the listed beneficiaries, even if your Last Will and Testament states otherwise.

Revocable / Irrevocable Living Trust

Both a revocable and irrevocable living trust allows you to establish a separate entity (the trust) to "hold" legal title to your assets while you are alive, and to name trustees to manage those assets according to the trust terms. Typically, you serve as the trustee while you are alive, managing your assets for your own benefit. Upon your disability or death, the trust terms appoint your successor trustee who then continues to manage — or distribute — the assets held in trust.

Our Syracuse Probate Attorneys Can Help

Whether you need assistance with trust administration or the probate process, we can help. Interestingly, you do not need to use the attorney who drafted your loved one's will or trust to settle an estate. Instead, it is most important to pick an attorney experienced in estate administration and probate. We concentrate our practice in Central and Northern New York, but have successfully aided clients throughout the state.

Please call our office and we will be happy to schedule a consultation, whether or not our office has drafted the original will or trust.