You may be filled with a myriad of emotions when a close friend or loved one passes away. In addition to handling feelings of loss, there are many factors to consider when settling the estate. In New York, and in many other states in the U.S., an estate may enter the probate process. 

Not only is it important for executors of the estate to understand the probate process, but it is helpful to know how the process works if you are writing your will or are a beneficiary. This may help to simplify the potentially complicated procedure. 

What is probate? 

Probate is the process of acquiring all the items and property involved in the estate and ensuring it gets to the beneficiaries named in the last will and testament. The estate administrator is responsible for gathering up the property, items and assets of the decedent. This may involve selling property and/or liquidating accounts. The administrator must then safeguard the property and assets until the estate is finalized. 

Any debts owed by the decedent must be paid out of the estate funds. After locating the beneficiaries, the remaining property is distributed to those people based on the wishes left by the deceased. 

Do all estates enter probate? 

Not all estates go through probate. Probate is required when the following occurs: 

  • There is no last will and testament 
  • The decedent had an estate valued at less than $50,000 
  • The estate is set up under a living trust 

A living trust allows property to transfer directly to the beneficiary when he or she is named on the trust. The property and/or assets are transferable upon the death of the trust holder.