A typical timeline for probate in New York
If an estate is worth less than $50,000 and has no property, you may be able to pursue voluntary administration, a simplified process that involves just one court filing and can be completed in weeks.
The full probate process takes at least 7 months because creditors have that much time to make claims.
Typically New York probate takes 7 to 9 months, but can last a year or more, depending on the complexity of the estate.
The most common delays involve contesting the will, disputes between the beneficiaries, and issues with the court calendar.
In New York, the length of the probate process depends on a number of things. The most important factor is the the value of your loved one’s estate.
If the estate is either valued at more than $50,000 or includes real estate solely in the person’s name, it will need to go through the full probate process, which takes a minimum of seven months.
There is an option for quicker probate, though, if the estate is valued at less than $50,000 and if any real estate is jointly owned. Called voluntary administration, it requires just one court filing, after which a judge will issue certificates for each asset to be transferred to its beneficiary.
Getting started with probate in New York
The first thing you will do is file the will in your loved one’s local Surrogate’s Court, or if there is no will, file a petition for probate. New York does not have a deadline for this, as other states do, but it is helpful to take this action as soon as possible to begin the process, especially if you will be going through full probate.
Probate take at least 7 months in New York because creditors have that long to make claims against the estate, once you’ve initiated probate. The average estate administration time in New York is seven to nine months.
New York probate timeline
While all probate timelines vary with the complexity of the estate, but a look at the best-case scenario, gives you an idea of how things will proceed.
Month 1: The will needs to be located (often held by the estate attorney) and filed in Surrogate’s Court.
The will names an executor, typically a family member, who is in charge of getting the estate through probate. The executor then files a certified copy of the death certificate, the original will, and a Petition for Probate with Surrogate’s Court in the county in which the person lived.
If there is no will, then an administration proceeding should be filed. A judge will appoint an administrator, who fulfills the same role that an executor does.
Months 2-3. The court normally takes 4-8 weeks to issue Grant of Probate. The executor must inventory the assets, which may include opening any safe deposit box, compiling a list of the creditors, and notifying creditors of the death.
Months 3-6. The executor makes a preliminary inventory of all personal and real property, validates creditors, pays all valid claims, and resolves any disputes with interested parties.
They then file the final income tax return and a federal estate tax return, if applicable, and submit the final informal accounting with the court.
Beneficiaries must sign a Beneficiary Agreement that the fiduciary acted appropriately and is released from liability after distributions are made. This is the deadline for filing any renunciation.
Months 7-9. Unless there is ongoing litigation or another kind of delay, such as in selling property or personal assets, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.
The most common probate delays in New York
Any estate can be delayed by beneficiary disagreements or other complexity, as well as issues with the court calendar, other agencies’ bureaucratic procedures, or property that’s difficult to sell. But a New York probate timeline may be affected by other factors.
First, a will may be contested before probate is granted. For a will to be valid in New York, it must be a hard copy on paper, signed in the presence of at least two witnesses, and the person must have been competent to make bequests of their own free will.
It cannot be altered in any way, not even removing staples or making binder holes. Digital-only wills are not valid, and handwritten wills (also known as holographic wills) and oral wills (known legally as nuncupative wills) are rarely legal.
Once the will is validated, there can be other issues. If there is real estate with occupants who refuse to leave, New York eviction proceedings can take at least six months (and are usually longer).
A judicial accounting, supervised by the court, may be required if a beneficiary contests the final informal accounting submitted by the executor. It also may be required if there is a minor beneficiary, or if the executor asks the court to rule on their actions as a fiduciary in anticipation of a dispute.
The New York probate process can be completed fairly quickly in many cases, but it has some administrative milestones that can be difficult to navigate when you’re dealing with your own and others’ emotions.
If you are struggling to find a balance between your emotional needs and administrative demands, you may want to consult a qualified attorney.
You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.
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