If you’ve lost a loved one, probate might be required to settle their affairs and distribute their estate. Because this process can be time-consuming, families frequently ask, “How long does it take for probate to complete?” While most estates are probated in about one year, different factors could make the process shorter or much longer.
If you need help with probate in New York, turn to Chaves Perlowitz Luftig, LLP. Our team of top-rated trusts and estates lawyers can ensure you what to expect at each stage of the probate process. We provide skilled guidance to make the process as efficient as possible for you and your family.
When you need to know more about the probate process in New York, reach out to us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to review your rights, options, and obligations with a knowledgeable New York estate planning lawyer.
What Is the Probate Process?
Probate is the legal process by which a deceased individual’s affairs are resolved. This includes gathering their assets, paying off their expenses and debts, and distributing any remaining assets to the decedent’s heirs or named beneficiaries.
The first step in the probate process involves appointing an executor or administrator for the estate. The executor or administrator is responsible for handling all the affairs of the estate and probate process.
While an executor refers to the person a decedent nominates in their will to handle the estate, they must still be appointed by the court. Beneficiaries of the estate can challenge the validity of a will or the appointment of an executor or administrator.
Once the court makes the appointment, the executor or administrator has the legal authority to act on the estate’s behalf. The executor or administrator begins the process of settling the estate, which usually includes the following tasks:
- Locating a decedent’s assets
- Gathering and safeguarding assets
- Paying the decedent’s outstanding debts and expenses
- Transferring ownership and title to assets
- Liquidating or selling assets that have not been specifically bequeathed in a decedent’s will
- Paying estate taxes
The last major part of the probate process involves closing the estate. This includes preparing a final accounting of the estate, or a summary of the estate’s assets and liabilities. The accounting must either be signed off by the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate or be approved by the court.
Once the accounting is approved, any remaining funds or assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will.
How Long Is Probate in NY?
So, how long does probate take in NY? Well, every estate has its own challenges and possible timeline, so it is difficult to give a precise answer to this question. Most probate matters take between several months to three years to resolve, for an average of about 12 to 15 months. Factors that can increase the length of the probate process include:
- An estate includes complex or substantial assets
- Difficulty in locating and gathering assets
- Creditors’ claims against the estate
- Will contests
- Accounting costs
- Actions by beneficiaries to remove the executor or administrator
The average length of the basic steps in the probate process in New York include:
- Appointment as administrator or executor of the estate: About four to six months
- Settling the estate: About six to nine months
- Closing the estate: About two to three months
Creditors that are not reasonably ascertainable of the estate must file a claim within 7 months from the date that the Surrogate’s Court judge issues letters to the executor or administrator. Creditors that are not reasonably ascertainable. If a creditor does not file a claim within this period, the executor will no longer be liable to such creditor.
When Is Probate Necessary in New York City?
The probate process usually must be performed whenever someone leaves assets as part of their estate when they pass away. Probate is required regardless of whether or not a decedent left behind a will. However, under New York law, probate is not required for small estates, defined as estates with less than $50,000 in assets.
With small estates, the court will either appoint an executor named in the decedent’s will, or an heir of the decedent if they left no will, as a voluntary administrator. The court will then issue a certificate for each asset that is collected and distributed by the administrator.
Are There Ways to Avoid Probate in NY?
With good estate planning, you can avoid requiring your loved ones to go through the probate process to distribute your assets after you pass away. Various estate planning tools can remove assets from the probate estate so they are not subjected to this process.
One common way to avoid probate in New York involves establishing a trust to hold your assets. A trustee manages the trust property for the benefit of your beneficiaries. Once you place your property in trust, the property is no longer part of your probate estate.
Another common way to avoid probate is using beneficiary designations to transfer property upon your death. Common examples of assets that have beneficiary designations include:
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement or pension accounts
- Bank or brokerage accounts with a “payable on death” or “transfer on death” designation
Assets with beneficiary designations are not considered probate assets as they are paid directly to the designated beneficiary upon your death.
Another popular tool to avoid probating titled assets (such as real estate) involves tilting those assets in a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, or a tenancy by the entirety (only available to a married couple).
When an asset is held in a joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety, each tenant holds an equal, undivided share. When an owner passes away, their interest is automatically distributed to the surviving owner without the need for probate. The final surviving tenant then owns the asset outright.
Contact Our New York Estate Planning Lawyers Today
Chaves Perlowitz Luftig, LLP provides experienced legal representation to individuals and families across New York. We can answer your questions about the probate process and ensure that your interests are protected when you contact us for a confidential consultation. Let us assist you in your New York probate matter. Call us or reach out to us online today.
Chaves Perlowitz Luftig LLP is one of the most highly regarded real estate and estate planning firms in New York City. Our team of top-rated real estate attorneys and estate planning lawyers have extensive knowledge, resources, and connections to help you achieve your goals and plan for the future.