The passing of a loved one is a time of immense grief and emotional turmoil, and it’s unfortunate that there are many practical considerations that must also be dealt with at this time, including managing the deceased’s estate. This involves probate: what is probate? It’s a complex yet crucial procedure that a probate lawyer can help with to ensure the deceased’s wishes are honored and their assets are distributed according to the law.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of handling a deceased person’s estate. This includes identifying and valuing their assets, paying off any debts, settling taxes, and finally, distributing the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries. The idea is to guide the estate from the hands of the deceased to the designated successors.

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Read more: What Is Probate in New York?

Is Probate Always Necessary?

The good news is, not every estate needs to go through the full probate process. New York law offers some exemptions based on the size and makeup of the estate; notably, for estates valued below $50,000These can be handled through a simplified procedure known as Voluntary Administration, avoiding the formal probate process, depending on whether there is real property and a Will.

If there is no Will, this is known as dying “intestate.” In these cases, everything will be handled entirely by the state, as there is no way to know what the deceased wishes may have been. Only legally binding Wills count: no other method of conveying one’s final wishes is legally binding.

If there is no will, the courts will follow existing law, which requires that the whole estate go first to the surviving spouse. If there are also children, then the spouse and children will have the estate divided among them. If there is no surviving spouse, the children inherit the entire estate. There are more rules: ask your probate lawyer to understand more based on your family situation.

Key Players and Stages

The Surrogate’s Court

This specialized court handles all probate matters in New York.

The Executor

This is a designated individual, named in the will or appointed by the court, who is responsible for managing the estate, filing paperwork, and distributing assets.

Probate Attorney

A knowledgeable attorney will greatly simplify the process, especially if they are hired during the estate planning stage. An attorney can make sure your plan follows all New York laws while also protecting your interests and minimizing tax obligations.

The stages of probate typically involve:

  1. Filing the will with the Surrogate’s Court: This initiates the formal process. There is a filing fee, starting at $45 for estates less than $10,000 and going up from there.
  2. Notifying potential heirs and creditors
  3. Inventorying and valuing assets: This includes property, investments, and debts; and the results of this inventory need to be sent to the court within six months.
  4. Paying off debts and taxes: This ensures creditors are satisfied and all legal obligations are met, and this must happen before the heirs or beneficiaries can take possession.
  5. Distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries: This fulfills the deceased’s wishes or follows NY intestacy laws if no will is present.

Probate may be inevitable for larger estates, but understanding its purpose and procedures can empower you: and the most empowering thing you can do is to get a good lawyer on your side. Contact Joseph N. Yamaner and Associates now for help in Rego Park, throughout Queens, New York and all surrounding areas.