What is probate in New York?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Probate Litigation |

When someone dies in New York, probate is likely necessary. The average person may have a difficult time understanding what probate is and why it is necessary. Smaller estates are sometimes eligible for streamlined probate proceedings, but the estate must have a relatively low overall value and generally cannot contain any real property to qualify. Quite a few estates in New York require full probate oversight.

Individuals who learn about probate and New York’s unique laws can understand what to expect when they agree to assist with estate administration or when they expect to inherit assets from a New York estate.

Probate proceedings resolve someone’s obligations and settle their estate

In New York, the probate process involves reviewing estate planning documents to determine their validity. Early probate proceedings in New York typically involve the presentation of wills and other documents to the courts. If there are no documents, then people can proceed with an intestate probate filing.

Either the individual selected by the decedent or a responsible adult appointed by the courts serves as the personal representative of the estate. It is their job to follow court protocols and properly distribute estate resources. Probate proceedings provide an opportunity for all parties with an interest in the estate to review and potentially contest the will if there are reasons to question its validity.

Probate proceedings involve the distribution of someone’s resources to their beneficiaries and the resolution of any outstanding obligations that they have to others. The surrogate or probate courts oversee the estate administration process. That process involves filing tax returns and paying tax bills, as well as communicating with creditors.

Those owed money by the decedent typically have the right to file a claim in probate court seeking reimbursement from the estate. The party overseeing the probate process must defer to state law and the documents provided by the decedent when making choices about how to distribute assets.

Occasionally, the probate process does involve a degree of conflict, as beneficiaries or family members decide to challenge the estate plan or the actions taken by the personal representative. When the probate process involves conflict, it may require months to resolve those disputes. The litigation involved in the process could very well reduce the final value of the estate. The average person may find it prohibitively difficult to serve as a personal representative without professional assistance.

Having support during the complex legal process of estate administration can reduce the risk of mistakes that could trigger personal financial liability. Most people need support and information about the probate process. Learning the basics about probate can help people determine if they can fulfill the obligations that fall to the personal representative of an estate and can also potentially recognize when they may need to take legal action.