What is Considered a Small Estate in New York Probate Court?

In New York, estates with real property valued at less than $30,000 are considered “small estates” and may be able to pass through probate court much more quickly than larger estates, if the executor handles the process correctly. Although small estates can pass through a simplified probate process, executors will still need to perform some of the duties as if he or she were overseeing a much larger estate and will even need to file certain paperwork with the court.


Ordinarily, probate proceedings in New York Surrogate Courts can be lengthy and time consuming processes but with a simplified estate, moving the last will and testament through court can be much more expedient. Although the asset threshold may appear very small, as even a modest mode and possessions will easily be valued at well over $30,000, there are scenarios where even seemingly large estates could pass through.


Only property solely owned by the deceased counts towards the small estate threshold. This means assets like homes, vehicles, and family businesses in two people’s names will not count towards the $30,000 limit. This can be especially helpful when there is a surviving spouse named to the title of homes and real estate.


Furthermore, not all personal property needs to be counted towards an estate. Only real property like homes, cars, businesses, and bank accounts. Life insurance, an IRA and similar assets with a named beneficiary do not need to be counted as these pass automatically to a beneficiary upon the passing of the policyholder.


How do I prepare a small estate for an administrative proceeding?


To prepare a small estate for an administrative hearing, the executor of the estate will need to file the will,a copy of the death certificate, and a small estate affidavit petition for the hearing with the Surrogate Court where the deceased lived. The deceased’s heirs, known as distributions, must be listed on the probate petition and served notice, as is required with any estate going through probate.


Once all parties are put on notice, the Surrogate Court has authority over the proceedings and the power to determine whether the will is valid or not. The distributees will need to sign a waiver to allow the estate to pass through probate or the process can become much more complicated if the estate is contested, which is not uncommon.


The probate court will then determine if the last will and testament is valid and whether the deceased’s assets fall below the $30,000 small estate threshold. If the court agrees, the estate will pass through the court and the executor may distribute what property remains to the heirs.

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