If you find yourself involved in the probate of an estate in the State of New York for the first time you likely have a number of questions and concerns regarding the probate process. Chief among those questions and concerns is likely “How long does probate take in New York?” Because each estate is unique, the probate process is also unique for each estate, making it impossible to provide a “one size fits all” answer to that question. There are, however, a number of factors that will help determine how long it takes to probate an estate in the State of New York. A better understanding of those factors, and of the probate process itself, may give you an idea how long it will take to probate the estate in which you are involved.
The Purpose of Probate
The purpose of probate is to ensure that all estate assets left behind by a decedent are identified, located, valued, and eventually passed down to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. Probate also serves as a venue in which creditors of the estate can files claims as well as a way to ensure that taxes owed by the estate are paid before assets are distributed.
Factors that Determine How Long Probate Will Take
Though each probate process is an individual and unique process, there are factors that are common to the probate of all estates that will directly impact the amount of time it takes to probate the estate, including:
- Type of probate process required – Not all estates are required to use formal probate. Small estates may qualify for an alternative to formal probate. If so, the probate process may be complete within several months. If the estate is required to go through formal probate, however, it will take considerably longer to probate. Formal probate requires a minimum of seven months because that is how long creditors have to file claims against the estate.
- Value of the estate – as a general rule, the more valuable the estate the longer it takes to probate because it takes longer to identify, locate, and value all the estate assets.
- Type of assets involved – all assets are not probate assets, meaning some assets are not required to be part of the probate process. Trust assets, proceeds of a life insurance policy, and certain types of jointly owned property, for example, are considered non-probate assets. The more non-probate assets involved the less time it will generally take to complete the probate of an estate.
- Estate liquidity – liquid assets are assets that are already in cash form, or that can readily be converted to cash form. Most estates need liquid assets to settle debts of the estate. If an estate lacks liquidity, estate assets may have to be sold to raise the necessary cash. This can cause delays in the probate process.
- Litigation – one thing that will always lengthen the time it takes an estate to get through probate is a challenge to the Will submitted to the court for probate. If a Will contest is filed, the probate process effectively comes to a screeching halt because the outcome of the contest will determine how the probate process proceeds. Therefore, not much can occur while the estate is involved in the litigation of the Will contest.
- Beneficiaries and heirs – in many cases, beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate are required to agree on how assets are distributed, or even sold, in order for the probate process to move along smoothly. Disagreement or conflict among the beneficiaries and/or heirs, therefore, can cause the probate process to move much slower.
- Executor – the Executor of the estate is responsible for overseeing the probate of the estate. Although the Executor typically retains the services of an estate planning attorney to assist, the Executor will still have a direct impact on how smoothly the probate process runs (or doesn’t run).
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the New York probate process please join us for one of our free estate planning seminars, or contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia, by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.