If you find yourself involved in the probate of an estate in Long Island, New York and you have never been through the probate process before you may have a number of questions relating to the process itself. Chief among those questions may be “How long does the Long Island Probate process take?” Given the individual nature of probate, it is impossible to provide a universally applicable answer to that question. Learning more about the Long Island probate process, however, may give you a better idea how long your probate process may take.
Does the Estate Qualify for an Alternative to Formal Probate?
One of the first, and most important, factors in deciding how long the probate process will take is whether the estate qualifies for an alternative to formal probate. If it does, the probate process will be significantly faster. In the State of New York there are several alternatives to formal probate for small estates that involve assets valued at less than $30,000. If the estate is using a small estate alternative in lieu of formal probate you can count on wrapping up the probate process in considerably less time than if the estate requires formal probate.
Is There a Minimum Time It Takes to Probate an Estate in New York?
Yes. If the estate requires formal probate, it will take a minimum of seven months to conclude the probate process, and typically more like a minimum of eight months, because seven months is the amount of time allotted by law for creditors to file claims against the estate. From the time they are notified, creditors have seven months to file a claim against the estate. The Executor or Personal Representative of the estate must then review those claims and approve or deny them. As a result, probate must remain open for a minimum of seven months from the time creditors are notified.
Does It Matter of the Decedent Left a Will?
Yes, it can make a difference in the amount of time it takes to probate an estate if the decedent died “intestate”. A “testate” estate is one in which the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament. An “intestate” estate is one where the decedent did not leave behind a Will. In a testate estate the terms of the Will dictate how the estate assets are handled whereas in an intestate estate the New York intestate succession laws will determine what happens to estate assets. Moreover, if the decedent died intestate, it can take longer to probate the estate because there are extra steps in the probate process. In an intestate estate administration, the court must determine who all the legal heirs are to the estate, locate those heirs, and notify them that the probate process is underway. These extra steps typically require additional time, causing the probate process to take longer than in a similar testate estate.
What Are the Basic Probate Steps?
Although no two estates follow the exact same path through the probate process, there are some steps that are common to the probate of most estates, without regard to the size of the estate or the value of the estate assets; however, the size and value can impact the time it takes an estate to make it through the probate process. Common probate steps include:
- Securing estate assets – the Executor/PR of the estate must identify, locate, value and inventory all estate assets. As a general rule, the larger the estate, and/or the more complex the estate assets are, the longer it takes to accomplish this step.
- Challenges to the Estate – if an interested party believes the Will submitted to probate is not valid a Will contest may be filed. If that occurs, the challenge must be litigated before probate may continue. If the contestant prevails, the Will is declared invalid. The court then looks for another valid Will to use for the probate of the estate. If no valid Will is located, the estate becomes an intestate estate. A Will contest can significantly extend the probate process because it can take months, even years, to litigate a Will contest.
- Estate Taxes – all tax returns, including federal gift and estate taxes, must be prepared and all taxes obligations paid before any assets may be distributed to heirs and/or beneficiaries.
- Transferring Assets – when all taxes have been paid and all other estate business concluded, the remaining estate assets may be transferred to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about the Long Island probate process, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.