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Brooklyn Bar Association examines ins and outs of probating a will

March 29, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bar Association hosted a CLE session on “How to Probate a Will” on Monday. Pictured from left: Steven D. Cohn, Paul Forster, Kevin McTernan, Dan Antonelli and Hon. Bruce Balter. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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It was a packed house at the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) for its annual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) update on “How to Probate a Will,” with a panel that included two judges, two attorneys and the chief clerk of the Probate Department of the Surrogate’s Court in Kings County on Monday night.

“On behalf of Richard Klass and myself, we are co-chairs of the CLE committee, thank you for this great attendance,” said Steven D. Cohn, past president of the BBA. “Frank Seddio also sends his regards.”

Attorney Paul S. Forster moderated the panel, which included Justice Bruce M. Balter; Hon. Frank Seddio; Kevin McTernan, chief clerk of the Probate Department; and Daniel R. Antonelli. The program discussed the ins and outs of probating a will in New York state Surrogate’s Court, and the panel provided two different perspectives — from the court’s point of view (McTernan) and that of the practitioner (Antonelli).

“Probate is the Latin for ‘to prove,’” Antonelli explained. “What you are saying to the court is that, this is the last will and testament of the deceased and I want you, the court, to put your seal on this document that says that this is by law the last will and testament. Then you as the executor get a certificate and that is your right to act and manage the estate.”

Antonelli said that there haven’t been any major changes to probate law since the BBA last hosted a similar CLE seminar, but that it gets a lot of attention because it’s an area of the law that a lot of different attorneys, no matter their specialization, can include in their practice.

“Someone who might practice immigration, for instance, might get a lot of calls for wills or probate so this becomes a nice little attachment to add into your regular practice,” he said. “Some of it gets tough, but the basics are relatively simple when you’re not dealing with a contested proceeding.”

Using a conversational style that promoted discussion and dialogue, the group went through a checklist and addressed major issues such as application, jurisdiction, preliminary letters and proving the will.

“The substance doesn’t change, but a lot of the little things do — the stories and anecdotes,” Antonelli said. “That’s really the good stuff because it comes off the cuff and it’s interesting to the people that are here.”

The BBA hosted another CLE session on Tuesday — Nuts and Bolts of Litigating LGBT Employment Discrimination Cases — and will host its third CLE seminar in three days on Wednesday — Wrongful Convictions and Actual Innocence. Wednesday’s CLE session will be moderated by Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix and will feature Hon. John Leventhal and Hon. Matthew D’Emic among its panelists.

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