What Is Probate, And When Does It Occur?

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What Is Probate, And When Does It Occur in New York?

Probate is a legal process that occurs after an individual passes away, and it plays a significant role in estate planning and administration in New York. Understanding probate and when it occurs is essential for anyone engaged in estate planning.

Probate Defined

In essence, probate is the formal court-supervised process of validating a deceased person’s will, if one exists, and distributing their assets to heirs and beneficiaries. If there is no valid will (intestate), the court will oversee the distribution of assets according to state laws.

When Does Probate Occur?

Probate typically occurs in the following situations:

1. When There Is a Will

If the deceased person (decedent) had a valid will, the probate process is used to:

  • Authenticate the will to ensure it meets legal requirements.
  • Appoint an executor or personal representative named in the will.
  • Notify creditors and beneficiaries of the probate proceedings.
  • Supervise the payment of debts and distribution of assets as specified in the will.

2. When There Is No Will

When a person passes away without a valid will (intestate), the probate process is necessary to:

  • Appoint an administrator to manage the estate.
  • Identify and locate heirs as per state law.
  • Resolve creditor claims and distribute assets according to state intestacy laws.

Key Stages of the Probate Process

The probate process typically includes several key stages, such as:

1. Filing a Petition

The probate process begins with filing a petition in the appropriate New York Surrogate’s Court, usually in the county where the decedent resided at the time of their death.

2. Notification and Inventory

Creditors and beneficiaries must be notified of the proceedings. An inventory of the decedent’s assets is created.

3. Creditor Claims

Creditors have a limited time to file claims against the estate for debts owed to them.

4. Asset Valuation and Distribution

The court oversees the valuation of assets and the distribution of assets to heirs or beneficiaries as per the will or state laws.

5. Final Accounting and Closing

Once debts are paid, and assets distributed, a final accounting is submitted to the court. After approval, the estate is closed.

Importance of Estate Planning

Estate planning, including creating a valid will or trusts, can help streamline and simplify the probate process. It allows individuals to specify their wishes, choose executors, and potentially reduce the time and costs associated with probate.

Consulting with Our Experienced Attorneys

At Morgan Legal Group, our experienced estate planning and probate attorneys can assist you in creating a comprehensive estate plan that aligns with your goals and helps mitigate probate-related challenges. Whether you are considering drafting a will, establishing trusts, or need guidance on probate matters, we are here to provide the legal expertise you require.


Probate is a critical process in estate administration, determining how a decedent’s assets are distributed. Understanding probate and its various stages is crucial for anyone engaged in estate planning. By consulting with our experienced attorneys, you can navigate the probate process effectively and ensure your wishes are carried out in accordance with New York State law.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group PLLP.

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