The Basic Steps in the Probate Process

Probate Lawyer: The Basic Steps in the Probate Process

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Probate Lawyer: The Basic Steps in the Probate Process

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate, ensuring that their assets are distributed according to their will or state law. At Morgan Legal Group, located in New York City, we specialize in estate planning, probate, elder law, wills, and trusts. This guide provides an in-depth look at the basic steps in the probate process in New York, helping you confidently navigate this complex procedure.

1. Filing the Petition

The probate process begins with filing a petition in the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the deceased resided. The purpose of this petition is to request the court to appoint an executor (if named in the will) or an administrator (if there is no will) to manage the estate.

Documents Required

To file the petition, you will need the original will (if one exists), a certified copy of the death certificate, and any other required documents specified by the court. It’s crucial to ensure that all paperwork is completed accurately to avoid delays.

2. Notifying Heirs and Beneficiaries

Once the petition is filed, the court will issue citations to all heirs and beneficiaries named in the will (or as determined by state law). These citations inform them of the probate proceeding and allow them to contest the will if they believe it is invalid.

Serving the Citations

Citations must be served to all interested parties, either personally or by mail, depending on the court’s requirements. Proper service is essential to ensure that the probate process can proceed without legal challenges.

3. Validating the Will

If a will exists, the court must validate it to confirm its authenticity. This involves proving that the will was properly executed and that the deceased was of sound mind when it was created. Witnesses to the will may be required to testify or provide affidavits.

Challenges to the Will

Heirs or beneficiaries may contest the will if they believe there are grounds for doing so, such as undue influence, fraud, or lack of capacity. If a contest is filed, the court will hold a hearing to resolve these issues.

4. Appointing the Executor or Administrator

Once the will is validated (or if there is no will), the court will appoint an executor or administrator to manage the estate. The executor or administrator has a fiduciary duty to act in the estate’s and its beneficiaries’ best interests.

Duties of the Executor or Administrator

The appointed executor or administrator manages the estate’s assets, pays debts and taxes, and distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the will or state law.

5. Inventorying the Estate

The executor or administrator must take an inventory of the deceased’s assets, including real estate, personal property, bank accounts, investments, and other valuables. This inventory is submitted to the court as part of the probate process.

Valuation of Assets

Each asset must be valued, either through appraisals or other accepted methods, to determine the total value of the estate. This information is crucial for paying debts, taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

6. Paying Debts and Taxes

Before distributing assets to beneficiaries, the executor or administrator must ensure that all debts and taxes owed by the estate are paid. This includes any outstanding bills, funeral expenses, and estate taxes.

Handling Claims Against the Estate

Creditors have a specified period to submit claims against the estate. The executor or administrator must review these claims and determine their validity. Valid claims are paid from the estate’s assets, while invalid claims can be disputed in court.

7. Distributing the Remaining Assets

After all debts and taxes have been paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the will or state law. The executor or administrator must follow the instructions in the will or the rules of intestacy if there is no will.

Final Accounting

The executor or administrator prepares a final accounting of all transactions conducted on behalf of the estate. This accounting is submitted to the court and beneficiaries for approval. Once approved, the estate can be closed.

8. Closing the Estate

Once all assets have been distributed and the final accounting is approved, the executor or administrator files a petition to close the estate. The court will issue an order to officially close the probate process, releasing the executor or administrator from their duties.

Final Steps

After the estate is closed, the executor or administrator must distribute any remaining assets and provide final reports to the beneficiaries. This marks the end of the probate process.


Understanding the probate process is essential for anyone involved in administering an estate. At Morgan Legal Group, we provide expert guidance to help you navigate the complexities of probate in New York. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to ensuring that the probate process is handled efficiently and in accordance with state law. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your probate needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate, ensuring their assets are distributed according to their will or state law.

How long does probate take in New York?

The length of the probate process can vary, but it typically takes several months to a year, depending on the complexity of the estate and any legal challenges that arise.

Can I avoid probate?

Several estate planning strategies, such as setting up trusts, joint ownership, and designating beneficiaries on accounts, can help you avoid probate. Consult with an estate planning attorney to explore your options.

What happens if there is no will?

If there is no will, the estate is distributed according to New York State’s intestacy laws, which determine the heirs based on their relationship to the deceased.

Do I need an attorney for probate?

While it is possible to handle probate without an attorney, having experienced legal guidance can help ensure that the process is completed correctly and efficiently, minimizing stress and potential legal issues.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group.

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