Frequently Asked Questions Pertaining to Wills, Trusts and Estate Administration Matters
Do you charge your standard hourly fee or a flat rate for preparing a will?
We offer a flat rate fee for our “will package”. The “will package” includes preparation and supervision of the execution of the will, living will and health care proxy. Additional documents such as Trusts are priced according to our standard hourly rate.
What do I need in order to meet you to prepare my will?
You should know about your assets- their approximate value, type of asset and whether they are titled in your name or jointly with someone else. For instance, you may have a brokerage account, standard checking and savings accounts, a house and other assets. Those assets may be in your name solely or may be held jointly with a spouse. You should have considered who you would like to serve as executor of your estate and trustee of any trust that you plan to establish. For your minor children, you should give thought to who you would like to serve as guardian should you predecease your children before they are eighteen years of age and ask the proposed guardian to confirm their willingness to serve. Further, when you meet our attorneys, you should bring any existing will, codicil and trust, even if you think that it is outdated. If such documents are not revoked, they may still effective for legal purposes. While you may not know all of the answers to these questions, it is still prudent to meet our attorneys for advice on the selection process. So long as you know the persons to serve in these roles by the time that your documents are signed, our attorneys can still draft the necessary documents.
What is the process for finalizing estate documents?
Our attorneys will meet you to discuss your intentions and your assets. After the meeting, we draft the documents and send them to you for review. Revisions, if suggested by you, will be made. Then, we will schedule a meeting for you to sign your documents according to New York State’s statutory requirements. Our attorneys conduct all will execution ceremonies with the proper number of witnesses and will notarize the documents requiring same. We also attach the proper affidavit to the will so that witnesses will probably not be required to be located in the future, although we maintain contact information for said witnesses.
What if the person who would like a will prepared is not well enough to visit your office?
Our attorneys make all accommodations necessary in this situation. It is not uncommon for us to visit clients in their home, the hospital where they are being treated, or in a nursing home. We will make the necessary arrangements for the initial meeting as well as for the execution ceremony. Further, we may need to consider whether the person is competent under New York State standards to make a will.
Where should I keep my original estate documents?
When your estate is probated, the original will needs to be submitted to the Surrogate’s Court. For this reason, it is important to maintain the document in a secure location. Further, staples should not be removed, as there could be a question as to whether someone changed a page within the original document. If a client wishes to take the document, we suggest that it be maintained in a safe deposit box. However, if their bank seals the safe deposit box after the death of our client, our attorneys would need to commence an action to open the safe deposit box to obtain access. As an alternative, our firm maintains a safe deposit box, where documents are held at the request of our clients.
My family member recently passed away. What do I need to do?
We suggest that you meet us as soon as you are ready. You should bring the original Will and Codicil (if available), the original Trust document, the original death certificate, a copy of the paid funeral bill, fee for Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration (at $6.00 per certificate), fee for the Court filing (the amount of which depends upon the value of the estate), and separation agreement or divorce decree (if applicable). It is helpful if you have the names and addresses of the estate beneficiaries and have a sense of the value and location of assets. After the meeting, our attorneys will prepare the filing to be made with the Surrogate’s Court, arrange to have the proposed executor or administrator sign it and file it with the Court.
What happens once I am appointed Executor or Administrator of the estate?
Upon appointment, our attorneys will send you a letter with general instructions on how to proceed. The main role of the Executor or Administrator is to protect and collect estate assets and then to sell or transfer them as instructed by the deceased, prior to distributing proceeds to the beneficiaries. Also, the Executor or Administrator is to pay and file any taxes that are due. We will obtain an Employer Identification Number (“EIN”) for the estate. The EIN is comparable to a social security number for an individual and is required to open the estate bank account and to transfer some estate assets. Our attorneys can assist you with the transfer of assets. For instance, our real estate department will support you in the sale and transfer of real estate owned by the deceased.
What if a person involved cannot be located or is mentally disabled?
Our attorneys are experienced in managing such situations. We follow the direction of the Surrogate’s Court for resolving such issues. The Court may order that a Citation to the missing person be published in a particular newspaper before agreeing that proper notice was provided. It is not unusual for the Court to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to represent the interests of the missing persons or of a mentally disabled person. As our attorneys have at times served as Guardian Ad Litem, we are familiar with meeting the requirements so that the estate administration can proceed as quickly as possible.
What if there is a dispute concerning the estate?
It is not uncommon for disputes to surround estates, as most estates involve family members, some of whom may be estranged. Our attorneys are experienced in litigation concerning estates. Of course, we will make all reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute through negotiation, with the family member and their attorney.