New Jersey & New York Probate Attorneys

Wills & Probate

Wills and Probate Legal Services in New York and New Jersey

Navigating the complexities of wills and probate can be daunting without the right legal help. Milvidskiy Law Group P.C. provides legal services in the area of probate and estate administration for New York and New Jersey residents. Our comprehensive approach covers every aspect of estate planning and administration.

Understanding Wills: The Foundation of Estate Planning

A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the care of any dependents after your death. It is a critical tool for estate planning, enabling you to make informed decisions about your estate’s future.

Requirements for a Valid Will

For a will to be considered valid, it must meet several criteria: it must be written by someone of legal age and sound mind, signed by the testator, and witnessed by at least two people who do not stand to benefit from the will.

The validity of a will hinges on several legal requirements, including the age and mental capacity of the testator, the presence of witnesses, and adherence to state-specific laws regarding its execution.

Mental Capacity and Witness Requirements

A testator must be of sound mind, understanding the nature of their estate and the implications of their decisions. The will must be signed in the presence of at least two impartial witnesses who can attest to the testator’s capacity and voluntariness.

Validity and Proper Execution in New Jersey and New York

Both New Jersey and New York have specific requirements for a will to be considered valid. In New Jersey, the will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document. New York has similar requirements, with additional provisions for holographic (handwritten) and nuncupative (oral) wills under certain circumstances.

Both states mandate specific procedures to ensure a will’s validity. These include the testator’s signature, the concurrent signatures of witnesses, and, in certain cases, notarization. Understanding these nuances is crucial for creating a legally binding document.

In New Jersey, the law requires not only the presence of witnesses but also that the will be signed by the testator. New York allows for certain exceptions, including holographic and nuncupative wills under specific circumstances, broadening the scope of what can be considered a valid will.

Why and When Probate is Required

When there is a will, probate is usually required to administer the estate. Probate is the legal process of verifying a will’s validity and administering the deceased’s estate. It is required to ensure lawful distribution of the estate according to the deceased’s wishes or state law if no will exists.

Probate and Estate Administration

This legal process ensures the orderly transfer of assets from the decedent’s estate to the beneficiaries. It includes validating the will, appointing an executor, assessing the estate’s value, inventorying the deceased’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries or heirs according to the will or state law.

Steps in the Probate and Estate Administration Process

The process begins with filing the will for probate in the appropriate court, followed by the appointment of an executor. The executor then takes an inventory of the estate, pays off debts and taxes, and distributes the remaining assets. This process can vary in complexity based on the estate’s size and the will’s instructions.

When There Is No Will: Intestacy Laws (Intestate Succession)

In the absence of a will, state intestacy laws determine the distribution of the estate. These laws prioritize close family members, such as spouses and children, but can leave out non-traditional relationships or specific wishes unaddressed.

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Testamentary Trusts and Probate

A testamentary trust is created within a will and becomes effective upon the testator’s death. It specifies how the assets are to be managed and distributed over time, often used to provide for minors or individuals with special needs.

Probating a Will with Testamentary Trust

Probating such a will follows the standard process but includes the additional step of setting up the trust according to the will’s terms. This involves appointing a trustee and transferring assets into the trust for management and distribution as directed by the will.

Setting Up the Testamentary Trust

The probate court’s approval is required to establish the trust, after which the trustee assumes responsibility for managing and distributing the assets according to the trust’s terms.

Ancillary Probate

Ancillary probate is necessary when the deceased owned property in a state other than where they lived. This secondary probate process ensures that out-of-state assets are distributed according to the will or intestacy laws.

Legal Challenges in the Probate Process

Challenges such as claims of lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence can complicate the probate process. Contestants may argue that the testator was not of sound mind or was coerced into making decisions, necessitating legal intervention to resolve these disputes.

Claims and Caveats

A caveat is a formal objection to a will’s validity, filed with the probate court. Handling such claims requires detailed legal knowledge to navigate the court’s requirements and defend the will’s integrity.

Managing Creditors and Estate Obligations

The estate must settle debts with creditors before distributing assets to beneficiaries. The executor plays a crucial role in notifying creditors, paying valid claims, and disputing any unfounded demands.

Part of the executor’s duties involves settling the deceased’s debts. This includes notifying creditors, verifying claims, and ensuring debts are paid from the estate’s assets before distribution to beneficiaries.

Prioritizing Claims

Creditors’ claims are prioritized according to legal statutes, with some debts being settled before others. This process ensures fair treatment of all parties and compliance with legal obligations.

Executor Responsibilities and Protections

The executor must navigate legal, financial, and ethical considerations, balancing the need for efficient administration with the requirement to act fairly and transparently toward all interested parties. Executors are entrusted with significant responsibilities, including managing the estate’s assets, filing taxes, and distributing assets. In some cases, a surety bond may be required to protect the estate from mismanagement, though waivers are sometimes possible.

Rights and Protections for Heirs and Beneficiaries

Heirs and beneficiaries have rights under both New York and New Jersey law, including receiving assets in a timely manner and being informed about the estate’s administration. Special provisions apply to beneficiaries with disabilities, minors, and those with special needs, ensuring their interests are safeguarded.

Beneficiaries with Special Needs and Disabilities

Special provisions may be necessary to ensure that beneficiaries with special needs or disabilities are properly cared for without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.

Minor Beneficiaries

Minors cannot directly inherit assets, so a trust or guardianship may be necessary to manage their inheritance until they reach adulthood.

Estate Accounting

Estate accounting involves a detailed report of how the estate’s assets have been managed and distributed, providing transparency to beneficiaries and the court. It is a critical step before closing the estate, providing a record that can be audited by beneficiaries and the court.

How to Close the Estate

Closing the estate requires completing all administrative tasks, including paying debts, distributing the assets, and filing a final accounting with the court. Once approved, the executor can formally close the estate.


Navigating wills, probate, and estate administration requires meticulous attention to legal details and a deep understanding of state laws. Milvidskiy Law Group P.C. is dedicated to guiding individuals and families in New York and New Jersey through these complex processes, ensuring that your estate planning needs are met with professionalism and compassion. Whether creating a will, navigating probate, or managing the challenges of estate administration, our expertise ensures your peace of mind and the secure future of your legacy.

Milvidskiy Law Group P.C. is dedicated to guiding you through each step of the wills and probate process with expertise and compassion. Our goal is to ensure your estate planning and administration needs are met with the highest legal standards, providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

To ensure your will is legally valid in New Jersey or New York, it must be written, signed by the testator, and witnessed by at least two individuals who are not beneficiaries in the will. In New York, the testator must also declare the document to be their will in front of the witnesses. Ensuring these requirements are met is essential for the will to be executable in probate court.

Yes, a will that was legally executed in another state is generally recognized as valid in New Jersey and New York, as long as it complies with the laws of the state where it was created. This principle is known as the “validity of execution” and ensures that wills are respected across state lines. However, there may be differences in state laws that could affect the interpretation and administration of the will. For example, provisions related to the appointment of executors, powers granted to executors, and specific bequests might be scrutinized under local laws. It’s advisable for individuals moving to a new state to review their will with a local estate planning attorney to ensure that their wishes are fully enforceable and to address any potential issues that might arise due to differences in state laws.

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s will is validated by a court, and their assets are distributed to beneficiaries. In New Jersey and New York, the process involves filing the will with the probate court, notifying heirs and creditors, inventorying the estate’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and finally distributing the remaining assets. This process can vary in length and complexity depending on the size of the estate and whether the will is contested.

Yes, several strategies can help avoid probate, such as establishing a living trust, designating beneficiaries on accounts like life insurance and retirement accounts, and owning property jointly with rights of survivorship. These methods allow assets to pass directly to beneficiaries without going through probate, potentially saving time and reducing costs.

If someone dies without a will, their assets are distributed according to state intestacy laws. These laws prioritize spouses, children, and other close relatives as heirs, but the exact distribution can vary based on the deceased’s family structure. This process may not reflect the deceased’s wishes and can lead to unintended consequences for the distribution of their estate.

To challenge a will, you must have legal standing (typically as a potential heir or beneficiary) and valid grounds, such as the testator’s lack of mental capacity, undue influence, or fraud. Challenges must be filed in the probate court handling the estate, and proving your case requires substantial evidence. It’s a complex process that often requires legal assistance.

An executor is responsible for managing the deceased’s estate through probate, including filing the will with the probate court, notifying beneficiaries and creditors, inventorying and appraising the estate’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful heirs. Executors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries.

When selecting an executor for your will, consider someone you trust implicitly, who is organized, and preferably resides in the same state or region to facilitate the handling of your estate. You can choose a family member, friend, or even a professional like an attorney or financial advisor. Ensure the person is willing and able to take on the responsibilities before naming them in your will.

A will should include the identification of the testator, a declaration that the document is your will, the appointment of an executor, the identification of beneficiaries, detailed instructions on how to distribute your assets, and guardianship designations for minor children if applicable. Including specific bequests and general distributions can help clarify your wishes.

Yes, digital assets, such as online accounts and digital files, are included in the probate process in New Jersey and New York. It’s important to consider these assets when planning your estate and to provide your executor with the necessary information to access and distribute these assets according to your wishes. The law regarding digital assets is evolving, so consulting with an attorney to ensure compliance with current regulations is advisable.

Inheritance tax is a tax imposed on individuals who inherit property or assets from a deceased person. New Jersey imposes an inheritance tax on certain beneficiaries who are not direct descendants (e.g., siblings, nieces, nephews, and unrelated individuals). The tax rate depends on the relationship to the deceased and the value of the inheritance. New York, however, does not have an inheritance tax. It’s important to consult with a tax professional or attorney to understand the specific obligations and exemptions that may apply.

In New Jersey, the executor or administrator of the estate is responsible for filing the inheritance tax return. This must be done within eight months of the decedent’s death. The return must include detailed information about the decedent’s assets and the beneficiaries of those assets. It’s important for the executor to accurately assess the value of the estate and calculate any tax due to avoid penalties and interest.

An estate tax is levied on the total value of a deceased person’s estate before it is distributed to the heirs. New York imposes an estate tax on estates exceeding a certain threshold, which is subject to change but is notably higher than the federal exemption limit. New Jersey repealed its estate tax effective January 1, 2018, and no longer imposes it. In addition to any applicable state estate taxes, the federal government also imposes an estate tax on estates that exceed a specific federal exemption limit. Estates that exceed these state or federal thresholds may owe estate taxes, which must be paid before assets are distributed to beneficiaries. The rates and exemptions vary, so it’s crucial to consult an attorney or a tax professional.

The executor or administrator of the estate is responsible for filing estate tax returns at both the state and federal levels. This involves determining whether the estate exceeds the respective exemption limits and if taxes are due. For New York estates, if the total value exceeds the state exemption limit, the executor must file a New York estate tax return. Similarly, if the estate’s value surpasses the federal exemption limit, the executor must file a federal estate tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

For federal estate tax returns, the deadline is nine months after the date of death, with the option to request a six-month extension. This timeframe generally applies across the board, but it’s crucial to verify as regulations can update. In New York, estate tax returns must also be filed within nine months after the deceased’s death, with a possible six-month extension available upon request. Timelines for filing and payment may vary slightly from state to state, so it’s essential to consult state-specific guidelines or a professional to ensure compliance.

In New York, the executor or administrator of the estate must file an estate tax return if the total value of the estate exceeds the New York state exemption limit at the time of death. The return must be filed within nine months of the decedent’s death, although extensions can be requested. It is the executor’s duty to ensure that the return accurately reflects the estate’s value and that any due tax is paid timely to avoid penalties.

Yes, there are strategies to minimize inheritance and estate taxes in New Jersey and New York. These can include gifting assets during your lifetime, establishing trusts, converting individual assets into joint ownership with the right of survivorship, and making charitable donations. It’s also beneficial to regularly review and update estate plans to reflect changes in tax laws and personal circumstances. Consulting with an estate planning attorney or tax advisor is essential to implement effective tax minimization strategies.

In New Jersey, the inheritance tax provides exemptions for spouses, domestic partners, and direct descendants, among others, with varying rates for different classes of beneficiaries. Additionally, there are deductions for debts, funeral expenses, and administration expenses. In New York, the estate tax allows for deductions such as funeral expenses, administration expenses, debts, and charitable donations. The estate tax also has a threshold exemption, only applying to estates exceeding a certain value. Understanding these exemptions and deductions is crucial for accurately filing tax returns and ensuring the estate is taxed appropriately.

What Our Clients Are Saying

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My husband and I had a very positive experience working with the Milvidskiy Law Group. They were very knowledge and professional and an overall pleasure to work with. I strongly recommend using this law firm.

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Sal M.

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