How to Probate a Will in New York

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Probate a Will in New York

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

When someone dies and leaves behind a last will and testament, the beneficiaries cannot receive assets until the probate process is over. Probate is the court process of proving a will and establishing its validity. After the process begins, the court oversees the administration of the deceased's estate and the distribution of assets.

Stamp and gavel on paperwork

1. Locate the death certificate and the will.

In order to begin the probate process, the court requires you to submit the deceased person's will and their death certificate. You can usually find a person's will at their residence among other important papers or in a safety deposit box at their bank. Their attorney may also have a copy. To obtain a certified death certificate, visit the website of the New York State Department of Health, which maintains death records for state residents. You can order a certified copy online or by mail or telephone.

2. Locate the court that has jurisdiction.

After you locate the will and the death certificate, you must bring the documents to the correct probate court. The New York State Unified Court System website can help you locate the Surrogate's Court in the county of the deceased person's residence. Simply click on the correct county to find the corresponding Surrogate's Court. Bring the deceased's will and death certificate and your identification to the clerk's office.

3. Request the relevant documents.

The probate process does not formally begin until you file the will and submit a Petition for Probate, along with other relevant documents. If the will names any heirs or beneficiaries, you must submit a Consent to Probate form for each person. In addition, you must submit witness affidavits to prove the signature on the document belongs to the deceased. To find a list of all the documents that may be necessary for your case, the forms are on the New York Court's website.

4. Inventory the estate's assets.

The Surrogate's Court requires an estimate of the estate's value. To provide this, write down the deceased person's assets and how much each is worth. Include any real estate, bank accounts, other financial accounts, automobiles, and other assets.

5. Submit a Petition for Probate and other relevant documents.

Fill out the Petition for Probate form entirely, along with all other relevant documents, and submit the paperwork to the court. Pay the filing fee. Once you file the probate package, the court sets an initial hearing date. If you receive any notices from the court before the hearing, comply with all requests and procedures.

The probate process can differ depending on the size and complexity of the estate. Ensure you're following all the above steps and are in compliance with New York's state laws so that the process can run as smoothly as possible. Inventorying the estate's assets is a particularly tough job for the larger estates, so in some cases, an appraiser is hired to help with the estimates. Note that some assets cannot be involved because a will does not determine what happens to those assets, such as IRAs and life insurance. If you were hoping to be the beneficiary of a non-probate asset that cannot be determined by the will, it should have their its designation for what occurs upon the death of its owner.

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