New York State Probate Laws

By Fraser Sherman

When someone dies in the state of New York, the surrogate's court in her county of residence handles probate. The executor named in the will normally works with the court, or hires an attorney to do so on her behalf.

Filing the Will

Probate Deadline

The D'Arrigo and Cote legal firm says there's no deadline for the executor to begin probate in New York. However it's best to begin promptly. If an heir or a creditor suffers financially from unreasonable delays, the court can penalize the person responsible.

Announcing the Death

Before probate proceeds any further, the executor must notify the heirs that she's filing her petition. She also must notify anyone who isn't in the will, but would inherit under New York law if the decedent had died without a will.

The notified parties can choose to contest the will. For example, if one of the heirs believes there's a more recent valid will someone is hiding, she can bring the issue before the court.

The Probate Process

Smaller Estates

Executors can use a simpler probate process if the estate meets New York requirements:

  • The decedent didn't own any real estate in his own name.
  • There's no wrongful death lawsuit about the decedent's passing.
  • The estate is worth less than $30,000.

Tip

In the small-estate process, the executor serves as voluntary administrator and distributes the assets to the heirs in only a few months. The filing fee is only $1.

Executor Fees

New York state executors and administrators are entitled to a fee for their work. The New York City Bar says the fee starts at 5 percent for an estate of $100,000 or less. The percentage goes down for larger estates: For amounts above $5 million it's 2 percent.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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