Some adults create thorough estate plans that rely on trusts and special paperwork to transfer property when they die. When successful, these complex plans can allow someone’s estate to bypass probate court entirely. Frequently, at least some of a person’s property may have to go through probate proceedings.
Whether you are the beneficiary of the estate or the executor someone selected in their estate documents, you may have an interest in an estate that will soon complete the probate process. What are the three general stages of probate proceedings in New York?
Opening probate and establishing authority
The first step in estate administration will involve filing paperwork with the courts. An executor will need to provide the will itself to the courts if one exists and ask the courts to formally establish their role as the executor of the estate. It is only after the courts acknowledge someone as the executor that they can begin to take action to manage the estate.
Organizing assets and sending notice
The executor of an estate will have to locate and secure all of the property owned by the testator. From their bank accounts to their physical belongings, there may be numerous valuable assets that the executor will have to locate and secure to preserve them from devaluation or theft.
The executor will also need to notify potential beneficiaries during this stage and send notice to creditors and other interested parties. Those parties can then file claims with the probate courts that can influence the distribution of assets later.
Distributing assets and finalizing probate
Once every party with a theoretical interest in the estate has had an opportunity to make a claim, the executor will begin distributing assets. Sometimes, the estate plan will include instructions for them to sell assets and distribute the proceeds among specific beneficiaries. Other times, the sale of assets will be necessary to pay off certain creditors.
After settling someone’s debts and handling their tax obligations, the executor can finally distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries of the estate. They will submit paperwork to the courts affirming the completion of probate administration.
Many things can go wrong at each step during the process. Other people may challenge your desire to serve as the executor or the legitimacy of the estate documents. Unknown creditors could come out of the woodwork, as could potential heirs or family members no one previously knew existed. Having the right support and knowing what to expect will take some of the risks and stress out of New York probate proceedings.