While planning your estate, you should develop a general understanding of the probate process. After your death, the New York Surrogate’s Court in your county will oversee the administration of your estate’s assets, taxes and deaths if you have a will.

Explore the regulations that govern probate in New York.

Assets that require probate

Your estate must undergo probate when the assets have a collective value of at least $30,000. Smaller estates go through a simplified administration process.

The court does not count probate-exempt property when calculating the value of your estate. Assets that are exempt from probate include:

  • Bank accounts for which you have designated a beneficiary
  • Retirement and pension accounts that have a named beneficiary
  • Life insurance proceeds

What happens during probate

When you create your will, you must name an executor. This person, who could be your attorney, a family member or a trusted friend, will administer your estate and fulfill your final wishes for your property.

When you die, the executor will ask your local Surrogate’s Court for permission to administer the will. He or she must complete a petition with the estimated estate value, information about heirs at law, the names and contact information for will beneficiaries and the date of death. The court will provide notice to all beneficiaries and heirs so they have an opportunity to contest the will if they disagree.

After the court approves the petition, the executor must:

  • Inventory your assets and transfer them to estate custody
  • Settle all outstanding taxes and bills the estate owes
  • Collect outstanding debts on behalf of the estate
  • Maintain and manage assets throughout probate
  • Distribute assets to your beneficiaries

The judge will review all estate documents to make sure that your will is valid and that you made it while of sound mind. He or she will also make sure the executor acts in accordance with your wishes and applicable state laws.