New York Small Estate Administration: How it Works
Probate, a court process for settling decedents’ estates, can be expensive and time consuming. If an estate is small, the cost of a traditional probate might consume most of the assets, leaving little for the heirs. That is why New York law permits some smaller estates to go through a faster, less expensive process called voluntary administration.
Small estate voluntary administration is a simplified procedure available if a decedent passed away with less than $50,000 in personal property. This process is usually not available if the decedent owned real property (such as land or a house) in their own name. However, if the decedent owned real property jointly with someone else and had less than $50,000 in personal property, then the estate does qualify as a small estate. This is because the jointly held real property will automatically pass to the other joint owner and doesn’t need to be probated. Personal property includes cars, cash, stocks, jewelry and more. Essentially, it means everything but real estate.
Voluntary administration begins by filing an affidavit with the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the decedent lived. The filing fee is $1. If the decedent had a will, then the executor has the right to file the affidavit. If there is no will, then the responsibility falls first to the surviving spouse, if there is one, or to the children or a parent of the decedent.
If you are filing the affidavit, you are asking to be named as the voluntary administrator. This designation gives you the authority to collect the decedent’s assets, pay off any debts owed by the estate and distribute estate property to the heirs and other beneficiaries.
The affidavit should list the estate’s assets and their values. When filing the affidavit, you must also supply stamped envelopes addressed to the heirs. The court will use those envelopes to mail notices to the heirs to let them know the proceeding is underway. After the court approves the affidavit, you are appointed the voluntary administrator and authorized to collect the estate property. You will be required to open an estate account, which is used to pay the estate’s debts. Funeral and legal bills are paid first. After seven months have passed and all the estate’s debts have been settled, any funds remaining in the estate account are distributed to the heirs.
At the Law Office Maurice Verrillo, P.C. our attorney is available to guide you through all steps in a voluntary administration proceeding for a small estate. You can set up a free 30-minute consultation by calling our Rochester office at 585-563-1134 or contact us online.