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Admitting a Will to Probate in New York

When a loved one passes away, their surviving family members (or sometimes close friends) must find a way to settle the decedent's financial affairs, such as paying off the decedent's debts, notifying creditors of the death, selling the decedent's home, liquidating assets and distributing the remaining money to the decedent's beneficiaries.

In order to make all of the above happen, the decedent's will must be admitted to "probate." Often, the family is not familiar with probate. They can even become frustrated when they realize that the process can take months, delaying the distribution of the heirs' inheritance.

But probate is a necessary evil.

Probate ensures that creditors are paid, and more importantly, that heirs are protected. What exactly is probate? It is the court-supervised process where a decedent's will is authenticated by the probate court, and where the decedent's affairs are wrapped up.

If your loved one recently passed away and their personal estate is worth $30,000 or more, their will must be filed with the Surrogate's Court so it can be admitted to probate.

On the other hand, if your loved one's estate was worth less than $30,000, and they have a "small estate," then a family member can file for a voluntary administration proceeding instead.

During probate, the court is determining if the will is real and valid.

If the will is proved to the court's satisfaction and the judge is convinced that the will is legally valid, next an executor will be named to carry out the wishes of the deceased and settle their affairs – this is all done under the watchful eyes of the Surrogate Court.

Filing Probate with the Surrogate's Court

Have you been named the executor in your loved one's will? In that case, it is your responsibility to file the original will, along with a certified copy of the death certificate with the Surrogate's Court. You do this in the county where the decedent's primary residence was located.

When you file this documentation, you must list the decedent's heirs on the probate petition, and each of the heirs must be served with the notice; this is known as a "citation," which gives the Surrogate Court jurisdiction over the heirs. Meaning, the court has the authority to determine their rights.

Please be aware that all beneficiaries who are supposed to inherit something from the will must receive notice of the probate proceeding. Since probate cases can be very complicated, the New York courts advise executors to hire a lawyer.

Contact a Schenectady probate attorney from DeLorenzo, Grasso & Dalmata for a free case evaluation.