Probate Court in the State of New York is called Surrogate’s Court, and it involves many terms that may be unfamiliar to the general public. We define several terms used in probate proceedings:
Ancillary Probate: An ancillary probate is a supplemental probate proceeding held in a State where the deceased owned property but did not live.
Codicil: A will document that amends, but does not replace, a previously executed will that may add or revoke small provisions within the will.
Distributees: Distributees are the persons entitled to share in an estate if there is no valid will, in states outside of New York, the term ‘heirs’ is often used.
Executor: A person appointed by the Surrogate’s Court or named within a will to administer an estate.
Intestate: A person who dies without a will is said to have died “intestate.” Since the deceased left no direction on how to distribute their assets, New York law provides for how those assets will be distributed among the surviving members of the deceased’s family.
Probate: Probate is the process by which a will is proved to the satisfaction of the Surrogate (Judge) to be the valid Last Will and Testament of the person who died (decedent). The term is also used to describe the process of the court in administering the will.
Right of Election: The Right of Election is the legal right of a surviving spouse to elect to take either what the deceased spouse gave under the will, or the share of the estate as set forth by New York law.
Successor Executor: An alternate person named in a Will or Trust who becomes the executor if the named Executor cannot, or is unwilling to, serve.
Surrogate’s Court: The New York Court established in every county to hear cases involving the affairs of decedents, including the probate of wills and the administration of estates and trust proceedings.
Trust: A Trust is often used in estate planning to manage an asset or property, both real estate and personal property, for the benefit of another, essentially, a ‘contract’ used to reposition assets to protect, hold and manage them.
Trust Proceeding: Trust related actions taking place in Surrogate’s Court.
Voluntary Administration or Small Estate Administration: A simple and inexpensive method of administering the estate of a deceased person whose personal assets are under $30,000 (exclusive of certain types of property).
Will: A written declaration of what a person wants done with their property upon death.