Probate occurs when a person dies and the court supervises the administration of his or her estate. Not every New York estate must undergo probate. Many individuals use estate planning strategies to avoid court-ordered estate administration and save money and time for their inheritors.
Understanding the requirements for New York probate can help inform estate planning.
Only an estate worth more than $50,000 must go through probate. Some assets do not count toward the $50,000 probate minimum. These include:
- Insurance policies that have a designated beneficiary
- Funds and assets held in a valid New York trust
- Joint accounts owned with a survivor
- Qualifying retirement accounts and pensions, including 401k and IRA funds
- Bank accounts and securities with payable on death designations
Real estate owned with a surviving spouse or someone else is also exempt from probate in New York.
The probate process
The probate process starts when the executor submits a valid will to the Surrogate Court in the county where the deceased person lived along with the probate petition. The court will make sure the will meets state requirements and give the executor permission to administer the estate.
The executor will inventory all assets, obtain a professional valuation and transfer ownership to the estate. He or she must notify potential heirs and creditors as well as pay outstanding taxes and bills. After doing so, the executor distributes estate property based on the deceased person’s will. The court will ensure that the executor acted appropriately while doing so.
During probate, third parties have the opportunity to contest the will or the actions of the executor in court.