People die every day in New York, and many of them leave behind estates that will eventually wind up in probate court. Many factors influence whether you will need to probate an estate as the executor.

For example, the overall financial value of the estate will influence whether the probate courts monitor the administration of the estate. For estates worth less than $50,000, whether or not the deceased party has left behind an estate plan or last will, it may be possible to file a small estate or voluntary administration proceeding. Any estate with real estate holdings, regardless of value, will not qualify for this kind of filing.

In most other cases, the executor will need to cooperate with New York probate courts for the administration of the estate. The same is true for a very small estate that could later bring a wrongful death claim against an individual or business in relation to the death of the testator.

The first step is to file a copy of the last will or estate plan

In order to initiate probate proceedings in New York, you will need to provide the probate courts with a copy of the most recent estate plan or last will. Along with the last will, you need to file a certified copy of the death certificate along with a probate petition that lists all of the beneficiaries or heirs for the estate.

The county where the testator held their primary residence will be the county where you need to file with the probate court. Beneficiaries receive official notice from the courts, and the estate will pay a fee to the state based on the financial value of the estate itself.

Why probate isn’t necessarily something to avoid

For many people, avoiding probate court seems like the most important part of estate planning. However, probate court can actually streamline estate administration by ensuring the validity of the last will and other documents, providing oversight for the distribution of assets, ensuring that beneficiaries and heirs receive proper notice and confirming that the terms of the last will or estate plan comply with state law.

Going through probate drastically reduces the likelihood of someone challenging the last will or estate plan and may also decrease the likelihood of complaints or challenges related to your actions as executor. In other words, you should get ready to work with the probate courts in New York, not to avoid them or fight them.