How to Probate an Estate in New York

Losing a loved one is a traumatic event, and one that causes stress. When you learn you are charged with administering their estate, you may have questions, and concerns about the process. During this time, you may need to seek the assistance of an attorney who has experience with the New York probate process. We can help you through the New York probate process but, it is important you understand this process before we get started.

Step One in New York Probate Process

To start the probate process, you will need a copy of the death certificate of the decedent as well as a copy of the will. It is generally a good idea to determine if there are multiple copies of a will before you open probate. Check the dates on the will carefully, and make sure it is legally executed. Remember, New York requires a will be signed in front of at least two witnesses, and the witnesses must also sin the will for it to be valid.

Step Two in New York Probate Process

As executor of an estate, you will need to understand what assets the decedent had at the time of death. This means you should take an inventory of their personal belongings including artwork, jewelry, bank account balances, real estate holdings, and vehicles. You should also obtain a value of each of the assets; you will need them when you file the papers with the Surrogate’s Court. Keep in mind, assets like life insurance policies, or retirement accounts which have named beneficiaries need not be included in this inventory. Property that is held jointly also does not need to go through the probate process.

Step Three in New York Probate Process

Once you, as the person responsible for administering an estate, have located a copy of the will, and obtained a death certificate, the probate process must be opened with the York State Surrogate’s Court. There are specific documents which are part of this process including:

  • Petition for Probate
  • Waivers of Service
  • Consent to Probate (one for each heir)
  • Witness Affidavits (for the witnesses to the will)

Once you have obtained these papers, you should have each heir properly fill out the Consent to Probate form. Additionally, the witnesses to the making of the will should sign the appropriate affidavits. These are required only if the decedent had not filed their will with the courts prior to their death. Remember, these documents all have specific instructions and in most cases, a fee will need to be paid to the Clerk of Courts for filing.

Step Four in New York Probate Process

After taking these steps, you are finally ready to provide all the appropriate documents to the Surrogate’s Court for processing. Now, you will be able to set a date for a court hearing to validate the will, and to issue letters testamentary. Letters testamentary gives you, the executor of the estate the right to liquidate assets, and distribute the assets of the decedent as per the terms of the validated will. However, before assets are distributed, there are other steps which must be taken including:

  • Obtaining an EIN number for the estate
  • Opening an estate bank account
  • Notifying the creditors of the decedent of their debt and collecting final bills
  • Liquidating assets that are not to be distributed via the terms of the will (e.g. real estate, vehicles, etc.)

Final Steps in the New York Probate Process

Typically, an estate will remain open for a period of seven months in New York. This allows creditors to file appropriate claims, and allows for any heirs to launch a dispute if necessary. As the executor of the estate, you will be required to pay the debts of the estate, as well as any taxes due. Assets can then be distributed to the heirs as per the terms of the decedent’s will. Once these steps have been accomplished, a final report must be filed with the courts, and a final state and federal tax returns for the estate is also required to be filed.

Attorney Ravi Patel has experience handling simple, and complicated estates across the state of New York. He understands that this is a difficult time for you, and that the probate process can feel overwhelming, particularly since it can drag on for several months. He has years of experience handling probate matters, so instead of trying to deal with the paperwork by yourself, as well as all other aspects of the probate process, contact him for assistance.