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Ray
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Category: Legal
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Experience:  30 years in civil, probate, real estate, elder law
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My brother-in-law died recently in NYC without a will. He owned

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My brother-in-law died recently in NYC without a will. He owned a Co-op apartment in NYC and a house in New Jersey with his wife. Mortgages are fully paid and titles are under both their names. What does she need to do to transfer the title of the car, insurance policies (home, auto), his ira (she is the beneficiary) to her name. She is being told that she needs a Surrogate Certificate. What exactly is that. Would it be best to hire a lawyer to assist with the name changes. If so, should she hire a lawyer in NY or NJ? Or both?

RayAnswers :

Thanks for your question tonight and my sympathy here for your loss of loved one.

RayAnswers :

She would have to make application here for probate.This is a court supervised process since there was no will and the court would name her the personal representative.Once she has gotten appointed and her letters from Surrogate court then she can switch titles to the property as the sole heir.

RayAnswers :

The court as part of the process names the legal heir(s) under the NY laws of intestacy.

RayAnswers :

Here his estate consists of his share of marital property and any separate property.

RayAnswers :

Here are the laws of intestacy and whether she is the sole heir depends if there were children born.

RayAnswers :

























If you die with:here’s what happens:


  • children but no spouse




  • children inherit everything




  • spouse but no descendants




  • spouse inherits everything




  • spouse and descendants




  • spouse inherits the first $50,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance

  • descendants inherit everything else




  • parents but no spouse or descendants




  • parents inherit everything




  • siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents




  • siblings inherit everythi


RayAnswers :

She is going to need a lawyer here to help with application, gather assets, transfer titles, prepare and pay taxes and an inventory, etc.

RayAnswers :

All of this is approved along the way by the Surrogate Court judge.

Customer:

How long would the probate process take.

RayAnswers :

A good reference above to cover some of the process here.

RayAnswers :

This will take a minimum of a year to 18 moths.

RayAnswers :

It is slower here because there was no will everything requires a motion and order approving such as sales, transfers, etc.

RayAnswers :

The court supervises the whole process it is called dependent administration.

RayAnswers :

It is just slower and more lawyer labor intensive here without a will.

RayAnswers :

Lawyer referral through the State Bar here for you.

Customer:

What about the property in New Jersery. Would that need to be handled separately? How does she find a the right lawyer. Can you give a rough estimate about how much lawyer fees might be in NY?

RayAnswers :

They screen the lawyers for expeerience, malpractice coverage, good standing, etc.

RayAnswers :

You may want to get one that is dually licensed--ask the lawyer referral.

RayAnswers :

What happens is that there is an ancillary proceeding in NJ .If the property is sold then the funds are paid back to the probate in NY, if it is transferred to her then the deed is done by the lawyer.It involves a deed from her as personal representative to her as sole heir.

RayAnswers :

Again that may add several months to the estimate I gave you.The big time variable is if there is real estate sale it is how long that takes to find buyer and get it court approved.

RayAnswers :

Here it is not a problem to find one that is dually licensed for both states and can handle it all.

RayAnswers :

The bar can help you locate a probate lawyer that has both states license here.

Customer:

Good to hear about the dual licensing. So until the probate process is completed, does the homeowners insurance, auto insurance, car title etc. remain under the deceased name and she just continues to pay the monthly payments?

RayAnswers :

Yes once she is named her as personal representative she can get lender to change it over to her name.

RayAnswers :

And any insurance here that names her as a beneficiary or IRA for that matter should pass outside probate to her as a named heir.

RayAnswers :

In that instance a death certificate should suffice to transfer or roll it over to her.

RayAnswers :

And here she can keep making insurance and other payments until she can get it transferred to her name in probate.

RayAnswers :

Also if she has not done it she is entitled to one time small social security death benefit.

RayAnswers :

She needs to contact social security for that.We're only talking about $200 but its something.

RayAnswers :

Information on that.

Customer:

She is really concerned about the cost of getting a lawyer as she does not have a lot of available funds at the moment. Is probate an expensive process?

RayAnswers :

They will usually work with you and take payments or spread it out here.The lawyer will give you a fee quote and you can shop it a bit here ask for two lawyers and compare fees.No harm in that.

RayAnswers :

This is pretty routine probate other than the second property out of state.

Customer:

Then after all of this is said and done, shouldn't she do her own estate planning to avoid this mess again.

RayAnswers :

Yes is some case she can eliminate probate altogether with say joint ownership with right of survivorship.

RayAnswers :

Here are the forms involved in probate so you can look them over and learn some more about the process.

RayAnswers :

Thanks again for letting me assist you tonight.I appreciate the chance to do so.

RayAnswers :

If you can leave a positive rating it is always appreciated.

Customer:

Thanks. This has been very helpful.

RayAnswers :


You are so welcome.

RayAnswers :

Take care and good luck with all.

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