For many people, probate is a subject that is shrouded in mystery. Perhaps the only time they have even heard of it is when an estate planning lawyer is advertising ways to avoid it. In this post, we will give a brief introduction to New York probate.
New York law uses the term probate to refer to the process of checking that a will meets all the legal requirements, so that the estate can be distributed according to the wishes of the deceased. The process of distributing the estate is known as estate administration. Typically, a will appoints an executor, or personal representative, to manage this process.
The executor begins by filing the original will and a certified copy of the death certificate with the court in the county where the deceased had his or her primary residence. Along with these documents, the executor must file a probate petition asking for legal authority to distribute the estate and listing all the deceased person's heirs.
The court reviews these documents and checks to make sure the will meets all the required formalities. The court informs the heirs of their interest in the estate, and they have a chance to contest the will if they think that the deceased made it under duress or undue influence. Will contests can lead to very difficult disputes.
Fortunately, in most cases, a will contest is not an issue. Most probate cases are relatively straightforward. That is not to say they are easy, however. Those who have been appointed as executors should speak to a lawyer with experience in probate and estate administration.