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Home > Blog > Estate Planning > Understanding the Probate Process in New York

Understanding the Probate Process in New York


End of life issues can be difficult to discuss. As a result, legal processes and procedures which must be followed in the event of a death are often shrouded in mystery. Among the areas least understood are the requirements of the probate court. Estate planning helps to minimize the time, cost, and overall toll these proceedings have on you and your loved ones. The following highlights some basic information you need to know about this process.

What Is Probate and How Does It Apply to My Situation

Probate is the administrative process for settling the estate of someone who has passed away. If the person who has died, known as the decedent, has a valid will in place, it is filed with the New York Probate Court. Your will provides an inventory of property and assets while designating beneficiaries of your estate. If your estate is worth less than $30,000, you may be entitled to go through simplified estate administration process. However, a will is still important to ensure all assets are accounted for and to convey your final wishes.

If there is not a valid will in place, the process becomes more complex. This is known as dying intestate. Rather than having assets and other belongings distributed among people you select, they will be distributed according to intestacy laws, which typically include only spouses, children, parents, or other immediate family members. Probate laws apply to all citizens in New York and anyone who owns property in our area. There are certain types of assets exempt from probate proceedings, which include:

  • Life insurance benefits;
  • Payable on death accounts;
  • Property titled as a joint tenancy or designating rights of survivorship.

What Happens During Probate?

Filing of the will with the probate court is done by an estate executor, who is someone the person trusts and is named in their estate planning documents. If an executor has not been designated by the decedent, one may be appointed through the court. Additional steps in the probate process include:

  • Filing a probate petition, which formally appoints the executor and provides notice to heirs;
  • Having testamentary letters issued to the executor, authorizing that person to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate;
  • Filing a complete inventory of all property and assets belonging to the decedent;
  • Providing Notice To Creditors, which allows them up to seven months to make a claim;
  • Paying creditors and any estate taxes owed to New York State;
  • Filing a petition to close the estate;
  • Obtaining an order authorizing distribution of property and assets to beneficiaries.

Contact Our New York Estate Planning Attorneys

This is a general outline for probate proceedings. Different types of issues may come up, depending on the circumstances involved. At Cavallo and Cavallo, we can help you avoid common pitfalls which make this process more complex. Call or contact our Bronx & Westchester estate planning attorneys and request a consultation to discuss the particulars in your situation today.


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