When someone dies, their estate must be settled. This includes identifying and gathering assets, filing tax returns, paying bills, and making final distributions to beneficiaries.

Probate Attorneys

While many of these tasks can be handled by a personal representative, probate attorneys provide valuable expertise and can reduce the risk of errors or litigation. Probate lawyers at Koestner & Shahon typically charge hourly or on a flat fee basis.

The legal practice of asset protection is designed to shield assets from creditors, divorce lawsuits and other claims. This is often necessary for business owners and individuals with substantial wealth.

A skilled probate attorney can assist in establishing an asset protection strategy that may include domestic and offshore trusts, special purpose entities, foreign property holdings, and other means of legally concealing assets. These strategies can also be used to avoid bankruptcy fraud, tax evasion and other liabilities. Asset protection planning requires an understanding of state and federal exemption laws, bankruptcy law, property division, choice of law principles, comparative international law and the law of trusts, estates and corporations.

It is important to protect assets as early as possible before a creditor attempts to take them. Even a few hours delay can result in the loss of valuables that you have worked hard to accumulate over the years. It is also important to keep in mind that assets can be subject to taxes as well, including inheritance and gift taxes.

An experienced estate and asset protection lawyer can help you safeguard your assets from creditors by using tools like domestic asset protection trusts, spendthrift trusts and dynasty trusts. The attorney can also ensure that your assets do not pass through probate when you die, which allows them to be distributed according to your wishes.

Probate attorneys are trained to assess a client’s assets, identify their goals and provide personalized strategies to accomplish them. In addition, they can help a client create an estate plan that will minimize the amount of taxes and expenses associated with the transfer of assets. In addition, an attorney can ensure that a client’s estate plan is in compliance with all applicable laws. This can be particularly helpful for clients who own real estate or other valuable assets that have the potential to be subject to creditor claims, lawsuits or other litigation. This includes protecting those assets from judgments and garnishment. A successful estate and asset protection plan can also prevent assets from being subject to a forced sale during a bankruptcy or divorce proceeding.

Litigation Avoidance

Litigation is an expensive, time-consuming, and stressful process. It is also often unpredictable. A probate attorney can help minimize the risk of litigation by assisting with legal documents and other tasks, filing the appropriate paperwork, and acting as an advocate in court.

Probate attorneys can also help clients avoid litigation by creating comprehensive estate plans, making sure all documents are properly drafted and signed, and implementing other legal strategies to protect assets. This can include the use of trusts, transfers of property before death, and drafting clear contracts that clearly define ownership, rights, and responsibilities.

An experienced probate attorney can also spot issues that could lead to legal disputes. These can include disagreements between beneficiaries, doubts about the legality of a will or trust, and tax issues. By proactively addressing these issues, an experienced probate attorney can help ensure that the wishes of the deceased are honored and avoid expensive and time-consuming legal disputes.

A probate litigation attorney can assist with a variety of legal cases, including those that involve contested probates, wills, estates, power of attorney and guardianship matters, or pay-on-death financial accounts. They can help with the filing of petitions, assemble forms and obtain paperwork like waivers and affidavits. They can also act as a legal guide for their clients through the complex and lengthy legal proceedings.

When a client hires a probate lawyer, it is important to understand that the attorney will not only handle the probate process but may have to take legal action on behalf of the client to resolve disputes or defend against claims. This is why it is a good idea to obtain advance court authorization for payment of the attorney’s fees. This will prevent the client from objecting to the attorney’s fee later on, and it can reduce statutory fees for excessive delay.


The duties of probate attorneys involve identifying and valuing a deceased person’s estate, paying debts and taxes that are owed and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. Probate can be complicated and it is important to hire an attorney who is familiar with New York law and federal estate taxation. Depending on the size of the estate, probate may take years to complete. A good attorney should be able to give you an estimate of how long the process will take and what their hourly rate is.

If there is a will, the lawyer can verify that it is valid and ensure that it was not signed against the deceased person’s best interests or under undue influence. They can also help the executor execute the terms of the will throughout the probate process. If there is no will, they can assist the administrator in distributing the estate according to state laws.

Besides settling the estate and avoiding tax liability, probate attorneys can also offer guidance on estate planning. This can include creating trusts that can avoid the probate process and providing tax efficiencies for the beneficiaries. They can also assist in litigation matters that arise during the probate process, such as kinship hearings, contested wills, accountings, contested administration and relief against fiduciary.

While the responsibilities of a probate attorney vary, they are all important to the estate and its beneficiaries. They can handle a variety of tasks, such as locating and gathering all estate assets, closing bank accounts, securing appraisals on jewelry and real estate and selling or distributing other personal items. They can also assist with filing and payment of estate taxes, which are based on the value of the estate.

When someone dies, their estate is a collection of all the property they owned at the time of death. This includes any money, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investments. The estate also includes any real property, such as a home or land, vehicles, furniture and other valuables. The probate process involves collecting all of this property, valuing it and then determining how much tax is due. The probate attorney can assess the tax liability and ensure that it is calculated correctly. They can also file the appropriate tax returns and help the estate with any appeals or challenges that might arise.


A will is a legal document that specifies your wishes after death, including how you would like to dispose of your property. It also names an executor who oversees the estate until probate, a court process that determines the validity of a will and settles debts and taxes, is completed. Your executor is a key person in executing your final wishes and must be someone you trust. A probate attorney can guide you in selecting the right person for this important role.

A living will, on the other hand, concerns your medical care and decision-making should you become incapacitated. A living will must be written by a doctor and signed in the presence of two witnesses. A nuncupative will is one in which your wishes are verbally expressed to witnesses but may not be legally binding, such as when a soldier scribbles down his or her thoughts in a dangerous situation. A joint will is one that blends the individual wills of you and your spouse, assuming your wishes are the same.

If you do not have a will, your estate passes through probate, according to state intestacy laws, which can vary widely. An experienced probate lawyer can help you file a petition with the Surrogate’s Court to be named estate administrator. In addition to proving your right to administer the estate, you will have to secure “renunciations” from all other relatives who want to be administrators and/or claim a portion of the estate.

During the probate process, your attorney can assist you in collecting and preserving assets, paying debts, and allocating your assets. They can also help you determine whether any taxes are owed, and file all required legal documentation for the estate. They can create an inventory of your assets and their values, and arrange for professional appraisals where necessary. Your attorney can also assist you in settling any disputes between beneficiaries or heirs.

A probate litigation attorney is an advocate for a party who disagrees with how a will, estate, guardianship, power of attorney, or trust is being managed. For example, a family member might complain that they were unfairly disinherited or that the will executor did not do his or her fiduciary duty. The probate litigation attorney advises the client of their rights, files the appropriate paperwork with the court, and if necessary, argues the case in court to support the client’s position.