Probate Timeline

After a loved one passes away, a probate must be filed with the New York Surrogate’s Court in order to dispute any assets that the decedent held in the decedent’s sole name at the time of the death of the decedent. Assets excluded from probate include assets transferred to a trust, real estate, bank accounts, stock brokerage or other accounts held in joint names or with named beneficiaries such as retirement accounts or life insurance policies.

Heirs and family members often wonder how long the formal probate process takes and how the process works. On average, the time it takes to administer a New York probate estate is somewhere around 7-9 months.

Just to give you an idea on how the New York probate process works, here is a sample timeline:

During the first month, the decedent’s will is located and then read to the heirs. The will determines who the decedent designated as the personal representative or executor of the estate and how the assets get distributed. The executor of the estate hires a probate lawyer in NY to help with the estate administration, legal and tax matters. The attorney for the estate or the executor will need to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate which gets filed together with the original will and probate petition with the New York Surrogate’s Court.

Probate Process NY

Probate is a Lengthy Process in NYS

During the second month. The Court will issue letters of administration which allowing the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate. The personal representative must make a list of the assets, which may include opening the decedent’ safe deposit box, and compile a list of the creditors, as well as notifying creditors of the decedent’s death. It is a good idea to hire an accountant to help with the estate accounting or seek assistance from the attorney.

During the Third Month. Personal and real property will need to be appraised and any property that needs to be sold to pay creditors or must be distributed to heirs as part of the overall estate distribution should be done so at this time.

During the Fourth Month. By this time, the value of the estate should be determined. The CPA, accountant or attorney representing the estate will need to prepare a Form 706, Federal Estate Tax Return and the executor will need to pay any estate taxes due out of the estate proceeds.

During the Fifth Month. All creditor’s claims should be paid and any disputes with other interested parties should be resolved.

During the Sixth Month. The Federal Income Tax return 1040 and 1041 must be filed and the final accounting should also be filed with the Surrogates Court so that plans can be made to wind up the estate.

During the seventh, eighth or ninth months. Unless there is ongoing litigation or other delays in selling real property or personal assets, the assets should be distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries and the petition to discharge the personal representative and wind up the estate should be filed with the Court. The estate is then closed.

Keep in mind though that this is just an estimate of the probate procedure and timeline. The size of the estate, type of assets and other issues determine how long the process takes. Large estates may take up to a year or more to wind up. There can be all sorts of surprises, mysteries and unexpected occurrences that can arise during a probate such as:

  • Will contests
  • Accounting contests
  • Proceedings to remove the executor for breach of fiduciary duty
  • Litigation claims filed by creditors.

These issues can become very emotional and sensitive creating delays in the winding up and closing of the estate.

Attorney Assistance

Because there are so many formalities that must be taken care of in connection with the administration of a New York probate that family members are unfamiliar with, most families hire a New York probate and estate attorney to help guide them through the complex probate process. It is comforting for the family to be able to rely on the expertise and advice of St. Pre Law Firm P.C. to handle complicated legal and tax issues, including resolving legal claims and disputes among beneficiaries or the executor that may arise. Hiring a top ranked estate lawyer makes it easier for the heirs and beneficiaries, saving them time and money.