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  • Writer's pictureRana M Waleed

The Probate Process in New York City: What You Need to Know

When a loved one passes away with a Last Will and Testament, their assets must be distributed according to their wishes. This process is called probate, and it involves several steps that can be complex and time-consuming, particularly in New York City. Here is a closer look at the probate process.

What is Probate?  What does the Probate process entail?

Probate is the legal process of distributing a deceased person's assets according to their will or per state law if they do not have a will. The process involves several steps, including:


1.Filing the will and a death certificate with the court: The first step in the probate process is to file the deceased person's will with the Surrogate's Court in the county where they lived at the time of death. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator to distribute the assets according to state law.


2.Appointment of the executor or administrator: The court will appoint an executor or administrator to oversee the probate process. If there is a will, the executor is named in the will. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator.


3.Inventory and appraisal of assets: The executor or administrator must take an inventory of the deceased person's assets and possibly have them appraised by a professional.


4.Payment of debts and taxes: The executor or administrator must pay any outstanding debts and taxes owed by the deceased person.


5.Distribution of assets: After all debts and taxes are paid, the executor or administrator distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will or according to state law if there is no will.


Here are some important points to keep in mind in New York State:

  • New York has an estate tax: If the value of the deceased person's assets is over a certain threshold, the estate may be subject to New York estate tax.  In 2023, that threshold is $6,580,000.

  • Probate can be time-consuming: The probate process can take several months or even years to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate and any legal challenges that arise.  *There were 11,450 probate petitions and 9,531 administration petitions filed in 2022 in New York City alone.  This vast number of filings in the Surrogate’s Court helps us understand why the process may take longer in New York City than in less populous areas. (This statistic was provided by the New York State Unified Court System’s Annual Report for 2022.)

  • Legal assistance is recommended: It is highly recommended to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to navigate the probate process in New York City. An experienced attorney can help you file the necessary documents, represent you in court, and ensure that the probate process runs smoothly.



The probate process in New York City is a complex process that involves several steps. It is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process, ensure that your loved one's wishes are carried out, and help you avoid any legal challenges. Understanding the probate process and having the right support can help ease the burden during a difficult time, allowing you to grieve in peace.

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