Probate in New York
New York has a very detailed probate system set forth in both the statelaw and the court rules. The system is logical (for the most part) and covers nearly all situations that arise, but it has several disadvantages and challenges.
One negative aspect of probate law is, as a practical matter, the system is simply too complex for many executors to follow without guidance, and the courts are not set up or staffed to provide probate legal assistance. In other words, don't count on the court clerk to guide you through, as they might in a small claims action. The clerks are not allowed to dispense advice, and even if they could, probate takes too long and has too many rules for the clerks to help people through, in most cases.
One major pitfall in retaining professional assistance for probate is paying for services not needed.
Many (though not all) estates under $500,000 simply do not require the same level of professional services, legal and otherwise, as those over $500,000. This is especially true in estates with primarily liquid assets and an executor who has the time and ability to administer the estate with minimal guidance from the estate attorney and, where appropriate (if income taxes are involved), a tax consultant.
While the entire probate process CAN be completed within a month, typically it takes several months. Nontaxable estates can normally be closed within a year from beginning, if there are no complications and if all the assets and debts can be immediately determined and taken care of. If the estate is taxable and a federal Form 706 (estate tax return) must be filed, that alone will require most estates to be open more than a year.
Where required, an informal closing can be done after seven months.
What does probate consist of?
In the most simple terms, the process starts with the preparation and filing of a petition and related documents to open the estate and name the executor. Beneficiaries and other interested persons must be notified and in some cases sign waivers as part of the process. Once appointed, the executor can "gather up" the assets and distribute them according to the will. Upon completion of the distribution, and the filing of any remaining court forms and tax returns, the estate may be closed.
While this summary may sound simple, probate is a fairly complex system of required and optional tasks by the executor, the attorney and sometimes other professionals. Of course, the simpler the assets and the decedent’s plan of distribution, the simpler probate will be. A single house and bank account left to a single adult beneficiary is simpler to probate than real estate in four states split among 13 beneficiaries.
New York has many excellent probate attorneys, in all counties, and we understand that some executors will prefer to hire a local attorney. We may not be local to the courthouse in most cases, but usually we don't need to be as long as the U.S. Postal Service keeps working. We offer New York executors, wherever they are located, a modern, efficient and economical alternative. If you would like to discuss the administration of your loved one’s estate, please call 518-283-7496. to schedule a telephone conference.