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Probate

How long does probate take in New York state?

Getting started with probate in New York

Whether or not your loved one left a will, any New York-based estate valued at more than $30,000 and/or includes real estate solely in the person’s name needs to go through New York probate.

There is an option for quicker small estate administration (also called voluntary administration) if personal property is valued at less than $50,000 and any real estate is jointly owned.  

Filing for Grant of Probate (Letters Testamentary for the executor or Letters of Administration for the administrator) is something that can wait, especially if you’re in the midst of your grieving process, since New York has no statute of limitations on filing for probate—but it’s generally advisable to file as soon as the next of kin are able to do so.

The average estate administration time in New York is seven to nine months, though large estates may take a year or more; the minimum is seven months from the date of the executor’s appointment because that’s the deadline for any unknown creditors to make their claims against the estate. 

New York probate timeline

While all probate timelines vary with the complexity of the estate, in the best case scenario, the executor gets appointments with the court in a timely manner and receives signed and notarized documents from the beneficiaries promptly upon request, including heirs, friends of the family, and sometimes even disinherited family members. 

Month 1: In New York, wills are not filed with the court until the person dies, so the will needs to be located (often held by the estate attorney) and then read to the heirs.

The will names the executor or determines the administrator, and all heirs and beneficiaries must sign a document agreeing that the will is valid and consenting to the nominated person administering the estate.

The executor then files a certified copy of the death certificate, the original will, and a Petition for Probate with the New York Surrogate’s Court in the county in which the person lived. If there is no will but there’s real property, then an administration proceeding should be filed.

Month 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, compile a list of the creditors, and notify 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 real property or personal assets, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries and the petition to discharge the personal representative and wind up the estate is filed with the court to close the estate. 

The most common probate delays in New York

Any estate could be delayed by beneficiary disagreement or other complexity, as well as issues with the court calendar, other agencies’ bureaucratic procedures, and property that’s difficult to sell. But a New York probate timeline may be affected by other factors. 

A will may be contested before probate is granted. In order to be valid, a New York will must be a hard copy on paper, signed in the presence of at least two witnesses who signed in the presence of the other, 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 holographic and 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 mostly longer).

A judicial accounting (supervised by the court) may be required if a beneficiary contests the final informal accounting submitted by the executor, 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.

State law allows all the time you need to start the probate process, but you may feel pressure from the beneficiaries to commence.

Once you do get started, it can be a struggle to get signed and notarized paperwork back from the various parties in a timely manner. If you are struggling to find a balance between your emotional needs and administrative demands, you may want to consult a qualified attorney ●

Probate

Probate

Probate is often a long and complex process, but it is also completely manageable if you stay organized and follow the instructions of the court. It’s definitely still a good idea to avoid the full probate process, if you can. We’ll walk you through whichever scenario applies to your loved one’s estate.