After a person dies, their estate goes through probate. You have probably heard of probate but may be unsure of what it is or what the process involves.
Perhaps you have heard that you should try to avoid the probate process because it is lengthy and complicated. While that might be true in some cases, the probate process in New York generally involves only a few basic steps.
Probate refers to the legal process involved with settling your estate after your death. An executor is appointed to distribute your estate according to the terms of your will or according to New York’s intestacy laws if you did not have a will.
Locating assets and paying debts
The executor’s first step is filing a probate petition and death certificate with the court. The next step is identifying all your assets and placing a value on them. Appraisers could be necessary for this step.
Notice that the estate is in probate must be given to all your creditors, so they have an opportunity to make any claims for debt you owed. Your heirs and beneficiaries must also be provided with notice that your estate is in probate.
Once your assets are identified and valued, the executor uses them to satisfy any of your outstanding debts. They might also be required to file a final tax return for you and pay any tax debt.
Addressing any challenges to the will
The executor then distributes your remaining assets to your heirs. There is always a possibility that an heir will contest the terms of the will, and this can complicate the process.
However, you can help avoid this scenario by regularly reviewing your will and making sure it is up to date. You should have open and honest conversations with your heirs about what they can expect to receive under your will.
The final step is for the executor to close out your estate. They usually receive a small fee for the time and effort they put in to distributing your estate.