Probate is the legal process which administers the estate of a deceased person and transfers ownership of their assets. Probate law varies from state to state, as does the process of probating a will or estate, so let’s focus on the particulars of probate in New York.
Probate takes place in probate court upon the death of an individual. In New York, this court is known as the Surrogate’s Court. The New York probate process is considered somewhat less burdensome than many other states, but there are still several tasks involved in the process. Some of these tasks include:
- Petitioning the court for probate;
- Filing the will with the Surrogate’s Court;
- Notifying the next of kin of court dates;
- Notifying and locating potential heirs, beneficiaries and creditors;
- Validating and accepting the will; and
- Transferring the ownership of assets.
Fortunately, New York probate does distinguish between probating small and large estates. Since the state of New York has an inheritance tax and there are federal estate taxes that are paid on large estates, the more property and money that are involved make the administration much more difficult. However, smaller estates, which in New York are considered to be estates with personal property under $30,000 and real property that will not be sold, may qualify for the Small Estate Affidavit Program. This program allows a more simplified court procedure that uses an Affidavit to distribute personal property to heirs or beneficiaries who have the right to inherit it.
To handle the probate process, your best bet is to consult an estate planning attorney – in fact, involving an estate planning lawyer before you even create a will, can help avoid probate and make the process much less burdensome later on.