Estate law experts help families understand the public processes and protocols that bring closure to our affairs when we die. Attorneys also help us navigate the complex terminology involved along the way, which tends to vary depending on the state. Surrogate Court or Probate Court? Read on!
Wrapping Up The Affairs of The Deceased
Whether or not there is a will, at some point most families find themselves navigating a court-supervised public process to wrap up the affairs of a deceased love one. The terms involved are not words we tend to use on a daily basis—and they do fluctuate by state. Experts at Trust & Will provide these geographic pointers:
New York and New Jersey are the only two states that have Surrogate Courts. Other states use the term “probate” instead. Below you’ll find a list of states that have either a Probate Court or Surrogate Court:
Trust & Will also points out that Surrogate Court is sometimes referred to as Surrogate’s Court and notes,“the terms Surrogate Court and Probate Court are used interchangeably,” explaining:“You may be familiar with the term “Probate Court” in relation to administering estates, as it is the term used consistently across states and in estate planning-related literature.”
The Surrogate’s Court decides what happens to a person’s property when that person dies.The Judge in Surrogate’s Court is called the Surrogate.The person who died is called the Decedent. That person’s property is called the estate….There are three different kinds of cases, also called estate proceedings, in Surrogate’s Court….
This is also called a voluntary administration. If a person died with less than $50,000 worth of personal property, then a small estate can be filed. This is a simpler and less expensive way of dividing a Decedent’s estate. It doesn’t matter if there was a Will or not.
If a person dies with a Will, then the kind of proceeding filed is called probate and the property is divided according to the Will.
If a person dies without a Will, then the proceeding filed is called administration and the property is divided according to the law.
Fiduciary Bonds Explained
An important aspect of estate law and estate planning is the designation of a responsible person to handle the administrative tasks associated with closing out the affairs of the deceased. When there is a will, this person is typically referred to as an executor. When there is not a will, the person is generally referred to as an administrator. Frequently, courts ask this designee to obtain a fiduciary bond. In New York, for example: “The Surrogate’s Court may require that a fiduciary be bonded before they are appointed. A bond is issued by a surety company and it acts as an insurance policy that provides security of the estate’s assets. In this way, if the fiduciary does not take care of the estate, then the bonding company will be required to reimburse the estate for the loss.”
Whenever the Surrogate Court or Probate Court in any state across the country requires a bond, Colonial Surety is here to make bonding easy and speedy. At Colonial, the steps to obtaining surrogate, probate, executor, administrator and other bonds are quick and easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter the payment method. Instantly print or e-file the bond right from anywhere—even before leaving court.
With or Without A Will
One of the big misunderstandings about the probate process in every state is that even when there is a will, there is a public protocol to follow. The difference is that when there is no will, the laws of intestate succession are applicable. Burner Law Group offers this example of what happens in Surrogate Court in New York, when there is a will:
The executor files the original Will and a certified copy of the death certificate with the probate petition in Surrogate’s Court. Notice needs to be given to the decedent’s next-of-kin — anyone who would have inherited had there not been a Will. These relatives will either sign waivers or issued a citation to appear in court. At the court date, they will have the opportunity to object to the executor and the Will. There are affidavits regarding assets and liabilities and family trees that may be necessary.
The Surrogate’s Court validates the Will and officially appoints the executor. Only then is the executor able to distribute the property left by the decedent. After addressing all issues with the Will, the Surrogate’s Court issues a decree granting probate and Letters Testamentary. These “letters” give the executor authority to marshal the assets, pay any debts, and distribute the assets according to the terms of the Will.
Rushing Off To Court?
Attorneys headed to Surrogate Court or Probate Court proceedings everywhere in the country count on digital bonds from Colonial Surety whenever fiduciary or court bonds are needed. For even faster service, use The Partnership Accout® for Attorneys. This free service from Colonial Surety offers:
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Our fiduciary bond portfolio includes: administrator, estate, executor, guardian, personal representative, probate, surrogate, trustee, conservator and more.
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