Does an estate always go to probate?

Find out more about probate. Learn if an estate will always go to probate after a person dies and what happens in probate.

It is fairly common knowledge that everyone should have a will that dictates what to do with personal assets and to allot for the care of children and pets. However, even with a will, there is still the process of probate that a person's heirs will have to deal with. This process is handled by the probate court in New York. It is a formal way to ensure that the will and estate are managed legally. However, not every estate must go through probate.

Probate basics

According to the New York State Unified Court System, probate is the process whereby the court ensures a will and other estate documents are valid and legal before the estate executor can distribute assets. The court, as a part of probate, also oversees the distribution of assets and carrying out of other instructions in the estate.

Probate begins when a person dies and his or her will is filed with the court. This is a legally required step. The process can be very short if the will is easily proven valid with no objections or issues, or it can be long and tedious if there are objections or the validity is difficult to prove. It can be especially challenging in cases where there are many assets or assets of great value.

No need for probate

In some cases, probate is not required. If the person has assets with a value under $30,000, the New York State Unified Court System explains a voluntary administration proceeding can be filed instead. This applies even if the person did not have a will. If there is a chance that a large settlement may come in the future, such as an insurance payout or a wrongful death judgement, then probate may be required despite the current value of the estate.

In a voluntary administration proceeding, the court will appoint someone as the voluntary administrator to distribute the assets. This is usually the named executor or the closest relative of the person. This process is usually much quicker than probate. It also is less expensive as it requires only a $1 filing fee.

If you have had a loved one die recently and the estate has ended up in probate, it is a good idea to seek legal help. A qualified attorney, such as Connors and Sullivan, can help ensure the process goes smoothly and can assist with any issues that may come up.