THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT AND PROBATE.
A Will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property after your death. Your Will is supervised by the Court after your death.
New York State has very specific requirements with respect to the proper execution of a Will. To be a validly executed Will, you must declare the document to be your Will in the presence of 2 independent witnesses. A Will can only be successfully contested if: (1) the Will is not executed properly; (2) you do not have mental capacity to execute a Will; or (3) there is undue influence or duress. When executed in an attorney's office, you can be assured that your Will will be executed properly, and that the attorney will take every precaution to avoid contest.
Probate is the administration of your estate by the Surrogate Court according to the terms of your Will; or, if there is no Will, then by intestate succession. The word “probate” usually conjures up visions of dark court buildings and substantial legal fees. This fear is generally based on horror stories passed down through the years. Most of the stories are either untrue or are based on misunderstandings as to the actual process.
Actual probate of the Will is fairly simple. The people who would inherit from you if you die without a Will are given a copy of your Will and the opportunity to either sign a Waiver consenting to the terms of the Will, or a date and time to voice their objection to the probate of your Will before the applicable Court.
The Will also places little or no burden upon you during your lifetime. You do not need to change the title to any of your accounts or other investments. You can change your Will whenever you like, provided that you are mentally competent.