After a loved one passes, the last thing you want to be worried about is handling their estate. An unresponsive, unhelpful, and irresponsible surrogate court can make the process of settling a loved one’s estate exceedingly more difficult. In this article, we will focus on one example based on our own experience: the Kings County Surrogate Court. Below, we will discuss the gaps in competency within the Kings County Surrogate Court and provide details on how to avoid dealing with a surrogate court.
The Kings County Surrogate Court Has Failed Time and Time Again
Kings County Surrogate Court is the center of an abundance of grief and unresolved cases. The establishment has a 2.2-star rating on Google, and there is an outpour of specifically targeted and detailed negative reviews. In the words of one reviewer that we found on Google: “There are people waiting over a year for the authority to collect loved-ones assets”. Another reviewer on Google reports, “From all the reviews I was expecting to be treated rudely. The rudeness actually exceeded all of my expectations''.
In our experience, the probate process is difficult as it is–it requires a plethora of esoteric and hard-to-locate documents and awareness of various regulations surrounding the inheritance of a deceased individual’s estate. Naturally, individuals going through this process may have questions that they need to be addressed, questions that only the probate court could answer. However, according to reviews, “no one ever picks up the phone, no matter which number you call there”, and even when someone does answer, “the staff is extremely rude and they hang up on you before you get to state why you're calling, obviously not resolving the issue”. This back-and-forth prolongs the probate process indefinitely, and it takes years before people are able to settle their affairs and move on from the death of a loved one.
What is a surrogate court?
A surrogate court is a specialized court that deals with the legal processes related to the distribution of a deceased individual’s assets and the settlement of their estate. When someone passes away without a will, their estate typically goes through the probate process to ensure that their debts are paid off and their remaining assets are distributed to the appropriate individuals. The main functions of a surrogate court include: validating the will, appointing an executor or personal representative, notifying creditors and paying debts, inventory and appraisal of assets, and distribution of those assets. This process is lengthy and tedious as it is, and a court that is incapable of supporting individuals simply causes more grief for the relatives of the deceased.
The Kings County Surrogate Court needs to train its employees to answer the phones in a manner that reflects professionalism. They must also be more responsive and reachable by email and mail if they insist that people do not call the office directly.
How to Avoid Dealing with a Surrogate Court
Avoiding surrogate court comes with several benefits including efficiency, cost savings, privacy, and control of who your assets go to. The probate fees come directly out of your accounts, and the lengthy process can leave your descendants with nothing but dried-up accounts and a plethora of paperwork. Probate is a public process, so the distribution of your assets will be much less private than if you settle them with a lawyer before your death. In addition, the probate process follows a division of assets consistent with intestacy laws in your state. As a result, you will not get to choose who inherits your assets because there are set rules that the court must abide by.
To diminish the heartache your loved ones will experience after your death, it is recommended that you establish at least a revocable living trust. A revocable living trust allows you to preserve and manage your assets during your lifetime but ensures that they are passed to the beneficiaries after your death. You can also set up an irrevocable trust, which does not allow you to actively manage the assets contained in it but avoids potential issues such as taxes and nursing home costs. By naming a successor to the assets stated within a trust, you are bypassing the surrogate court process ensuring these assets are seamlessly passed to the individual of your choice. In order to avoid probate it is important that all of your assets – from real estate to stocks to bank accounts – have a designated successor or are held in a joint account. Taking steps like designating beneficiaries on your life insurance, retirement accounts, and any other accounts that allow you to name a successor is also important.
That being said, the process of setting up your estate plan will vary based on your jurisdiction and circumstances. Therefore, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney who can provide guidance tailored to your individual needs and wishes. An attorney can talk you through the daunting process of setting up a smart estate plan. A good attorney will maximize the benefits for both you and your beneficiaries while minimizing costs such as tax implications. If you wish to avoid the horrific Kings County Surrogate Court that fails to answer questions, pick up the phone in dire times, and does not sympathize with anyone’s emotions during times of loss, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333–2394 and begin your estate planning journey today.