My colleague, Neil Pedersen, and I were delighted to sponsor another luncheon for members of the New York based Managing Attorneys and Clerks Association. This year at the Yale Club.  We focused on some practical issues surrounding the preparation and filing of Surrogate’s Court proceedings for probate, administration and similar situations.

Neil provided an overview of the several kinds of surety bonds these proceedings may require, including how to pre-screen the petitioners so that these bonds can be issued.  To contact Neil for more information, go to

I discussed concerns about identifying and locating heirs, distributees, legatees and witnesses as well as researching the decedent’s financial situation.  Here is a bit of a cheat sheet if you were not there:

  • Very often, for the survivors, they view the decedent’s estate as found money.  This can be a problem.
  • Be aware of long simmering family resentments that come to the surface following the decedent’s death.
  • Family members, especially extended family members and those of different generations, just are not as close these days and family members may not have much information to provide about others that you need to identify and locate.
  • Since you need to plan to produce a family tree, and since the best way to do that is by information provided by family members, take care to approach all family members appropriately.  Be careful that you do NOT provide anyone with information about how much, if anything, that person may receive from the estate.  You want their cooperation.  If that person is not going to receive any gift, or if the person perceives the gift they’re are to receive as insufficient, then that person is probably not going to provide you with any information nor will they be cooperative.  After all, you may need them to execute a Waiver and Consent. You may need them to provide information and other members of the family.
  • Conduct all the due diligence required when searching the decedent’s home or office for valuable documents, including a more currently issued Last Will.   Be especially careful for a Last Will executed just a short time before the decedent’s death.  Contact the decedent’s lawyers, accountants, brokers and other such professionals to ascertain information about any Wills and any issues pertaining to the execution of any Will to be submitted for probate.
  • Look at the decedent’s last six months, or more, of financial transactions to make sure all transactions were legitimate.  If the decedent was elderly and/or infirm, then they may have been a victim of elder or similar abuse.