Our Probate Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Find the answers your family needs after the death of a loved on this FAQ page, as the legal team at Antonelli & Antonelli share their perspective on many common concerns. Learn more about probate—what it is, how it works, what it can accomplish, and what your role may be.

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  • FAQ: What is Surrogate’s Court?

    Definition of SURROGATE’S COURT: (noun) / a specialized court that deals with probate and administration of estates, certain types of guardianships, and certain types of adoptions; also known as “probate court”

    The New York State Surrogate’s Court hears cases involving the affairs of decedents, the probate of wills, and the administration of estates.  Adoptions are also processed through the Surrogate’s Court.  Who is the Surrogate? A Surrogate is a specific type of judge.  It refers to the judge who hears cases in Surrogate’s Court.

    New York County (Manhattan)

    Hon. Nora S. Anderson
    Hon. Rita Mella
    31 Chambers Street
    New York, NY 10007
    Diana Sanabria
    Chief Clerk
    646-386-5000
    Jana Cohn
    Deputy Chief Clerk

    Bronx County

    Hon. Nelida Malave-Gonzalez
    12th Judicial District
    851 Grand Concourse
    Bronx, NY 10451
    Elix R. Madera-Fliegelman
    Chief Clerk
    718-618-2300

    Queens County

    Hon. Peter Kelly
    88-11 Sutphin Blvd.
    Jamaica, NY 11435
    James Lim Becker
    Chief Clerk
    718-298-0500
    Janet Tucker
    Deputy Chief Clerk

    Kings County (Brooklyn)

    Hon. Harriet L. Thompson
    Hon. Margarita Lopez Torres
    2 Johnson Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11201
    Doreen A. Quinn
    Chief Clerk
    347-404-9700

    Richmond County (Staten Island)

    Hon. Matthew J. Titone
    18 Richmond Terrace
    Staten Island, NY 10301
    Ronald M. Cerrachio
    Chief Clerk
    718-675-8500
    Jane E. Stilwell
    Deputy Chief Clerk

    Westchester County

    Hon. Brandon R. Sall                      Hon. Helen M. Blackwood,        Acting Surrogate
    111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, 19th Floor                                    White Plains, NY 10601

    Johanna K. O'Brien
    Chief Clerk
    914-824-5656
    Eugene Yates
    Deputy Chief Clerk

    Nassau County (Long Island)

    Hon. Margaret C. Reilly
    262 Old Country Road
    Mineola, NY 11501

    Debra Keller Leimbach
    Chief Clerk
    Martin B. Cuddihy
    516-493-3805
    Deputy Chief Clerk

    Suffolk County (Long Island)

    Hon. Theresa Whelan
    320 Center Drive
    Riverhead, NY 11901
    Michael Cipollino
    Chief Clerk
    631-852-1729

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • FAQ: What is a "Grantor" In Regards To Estate Law?

    Definition of GRANTOR: (noun) / a party who transfers ownership of property to another

    As applied to trust law, the grantor is the party who creates a trust and transfers or grants money to the trust.  In real estate law, the grantor is the transferor or seller of real property.

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • Who May Serve as Administrator of a Decedent’s Estate?

    When a decedent passes away intestate (without a will), New York Law (Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act §1001) prescribes who may serve as Administrator of the decedent’s estate.  

    Letters of Administration are granted to the following individuals, in order of priority:

    • The surviving spouse;
    • Children;
    • Grandchildren;
    • Father or mother;
    • Brothers or sisters;
    • Any other distributee, aka heir, (preference given to the person entitled to the largest share in the estate.
      • However, if the distributees are issue of grandparents, other than aunts or uncles, on only one side, then Letters of Administration will be granted to the Public Administrator.

    For example, if a decedent is survived by a spouse and two adult children, then the spouse is first in line to serve as Administrator followed by the two children who have an equal right to serve. Note that where there is more than one person in a class entitled to serve (e.g. if the decedent was survived by no spouse and two adult children) each person in the class is on equal footing. If there is disagreement as to which person in the class will serve as Administrator, then the Surrogate has the final say. However, this type of situation is often resolved by an agreement between the heirs to serve as co-Administrators or by requesting that the Public Administrator be appointed to represent the estate. If all heirs eligible to serve are in agreement, they can designate a non-heir to serve as Administrator. If there are no eligible heirs, then consent of all heirs is required. It is important to note that in a small estate proceeding (aka Voluntary Administration, where the estate is valued under $30,000) SCPA Article 13 does not allow the heirs to designate a non-heir to serve as Voluntary Administrator. In such a case, full Administration under SCPA Article 10 would be necessary. It is important to note that certain individuals are disqualified to serve in the role of Administrator (this rule applies to all fiduciaries seeking Letters from the Surrogate).

    Some People Can't Be Administrators of an Estate in New York

    Under New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act §707, the following individuals are disqualified from serving as Administrator of an estate:

    • Infants (under 18 years of age);
    • Incompetents (lacking sufficient understanding; typically mentally incapacitated);
    • Non-domiciliary aliens (neither a US citizen nor a US resident), unless they serve with an eligible co-fiduciary;
    • Convicted felons;
    • Persons who do not “possess the qualifications required of a fiduciary by reason of substance abuse, dishonesty, improvidence, want of understanding, or who are otherwise unfit to the execution of the office”;
    • Persons ineligible in the Court’s discretion, for example, a person who cannot read or write in the English language.

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • FAQ: What is an "Administrator" In Regards To Estate Law?

    Definition of ADMINISTRATOR: (noun) / any person to whom letters of administration have been issued (NY SCPA §103(2)); a person legally appointed to represent an intestate estate

    An administrator is appointed by the Surrogate’s Court to act on behalf of an estate where the decedent had no will, known as dying intestate.  Letters of Administration refers to the document issued by the Surrogate granting authority to an administrator.

    The word “administratrix” used to be regularly applied as the female equivalent of “administrator”.  It is less common today especially in the Surrogate’s Courts of the 5 boroughs of New York City.  Usage of the suffix “-trix” as applied to any word to indicate the female version is becoming increasingly outdated

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • FAQ: What is an "Executor" In Regards To Estate Law?

    Definition of EXECUTOR: (noun) / any person to whom letters testamentary have been issued (NY SCPA §103(20)); a person legally appointed to represent a testate estate

    An executor is appointed by the Surrogate’s Court to act on behalf of an estate where the decedent died with a will, known as dying testate.  Letters Testamentary refers to the document issued by the Surrogate granting authority to an executor.

    The word “executrix” used to be regularly applied as the female equivalent of “executor”.  It is less common today especially in the Surrogate’s Courts of the 5 boroughs of New York City.  Usage of the suffix “-trix” as applied to any word to indicate the female version is becoming increasingly outdated

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • FAQ: What is a "pecuniary interest"?

    Definition of PECUNIARY: (adjective) / of or relating to money

    In estate law, a pecuniary interest refers to one’s interest in an estate that relates to money.  Likewise, a pecuniary loss refers to a loss that can be measured in terms of money.

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • FAQ: What is a "Testator"?

    Definition of TESTATOR: (noun) / one who makes and executes a last will and testament, for example, if Tiffany has a will drafted and she executes the will, then Tiffany is referred to as the Testator.  When Tiffany subsequently passes away, she is said to have died “testate”, or with a will.

    The word "testatrix" used to be regularly applied as the female equivalent of "testator".  It is less common today especially in the Surrogate's Courts of the 5 boroughs of New York City.  Usage of the suffix "-trix" as applied to any word to indicate the female version is becoming increasingly outdated.  

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • FAQ: What is a "Trustee"?

    Definition of TRUSTEE: (noun) / one who acts on behalf of a trust; one who holds legal title to the assets of a trust

    The Trustee is in charge of administering the trust, including investing trust assets, keeping records, and making distributions.  The Trustee has a fiduciary obligation to the Beneficiaries, meaning that the Trustee must act in the best interest of the Beneficiaries.

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • Video: How Do I Find Out if I am in a Will?

    In this video interview, Attorney Daniel Antonelli, partner at Antonelli & Antonelli, noted probate and estate administration law firm in New York, NY, discusses how you can find out if you are in somebody’s will after they die.

    Antonelli & Antonelli represents clients throughout New York City in the areas of Probate, Estate Administration & Estate Litigation.

    Daniel Antonelli’s website, blog and additional videos cover questions frequently asked by clients, legal trends and legal news. He also publishes a Google+ Collection, Your Legal Questions Answered, where he answers one submitted question per week. You also are invited to arrange a consultation to discuss your legal needs.

    Please subscribe to the Antonelli & Antonelli Legal YouTube channel so you will be notified of the additional videos we add regularly.

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

  • I’m in a Will When Do I Get My Money?

    When do you get your money if you are in a will?

    That’s a tough question! The answer changes with every will and estate.

    If you expect to get your money quickly, you may be disappointed. It usually takes seven months to a year, depending on the complexity of the estate.

    Learn more in this brief video.

    Daniel Antonelli’s website, blog and additional videos cover questions frequently asked by clients, legal trends and legal news. He also publishes a Google+ Collection, Your Legal Questions Answered, where he answers submitted questions.

    Please subscribe to the Antonelli & Antonelli Legal YouTube channel so you will be notified when additional videos are added, which will happen on a regular basis.

    You also are invited to arrange a consultation to discuss your legal needs.

    Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In The New York Metro Area?

    If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout New York and northern New Jersey including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.