What is the NY small estate administration?

As a NY estate lawyer with more than two decades of experience litigating and probating wills for New Yorkers I have insight into many of the legal estate challenges created by the corona virus as well as some solutions.   Many members of our community have experienced and continue to experience great pain as a direct result of this virus.  In many circumstances survivors are left to pick up the pieces after losing their otherwise healthy loved ones in only a matter of weeks to this virus. Some never even had the opportunity to say goodbye or properly grieve let alone properly plan their NY estates. Understandably medical examiners offices are inundated with new cases making it difficult to even obtain death certificates in a timely manner.  

These are just a couple of the unique issues and circumstances New Yorkers are collectively facing making it frustrating at times to say the least to navigate the NY probate process for many.   As a NY estate lawyer I have been flooded with questions regarding these NY estate law issues since this pandemic began.  One of the most frequently asked questions fielded to NY estate lawyers right now is what to do when a spouse unexpectedly passes without a NY will? While any NY estate lawyer will tell you almost everyone, especially married couples with children, should have a properly executed NY attorney drafted will this is not always the case.

Many inquiries involve a common scenario where a spouse’s sudden passing creates a legal question about how to proceed.  For example, perhaps a married couple have no wills, but owned a property jointly along with several retirement accounts.  While all of the above-mentioned assets held jointly would automatically pass to their surviving spouse or named beneficiary by operation of law upon their passing pursuant to the NY estate law, thus passing outside their probatable estate. What about any remaining NY estate assets that may not have been held jointly or with named beneficiaries?

Well in NY, if someone passes away without a NY will, with $50,000.00 or less in their probatable NY estate, probatable assets are assets titled solely in the decedent’s name, their surviving relative can bring what’s called a small estate administration petition.  The benefits of the small estate administration proceeding are that it is a streamlined process that does not require the assistance of a NY estate lawyer.  An applicant can go on the NY Surrogate’s Court website, download the applicable small estate application and file the executed paperwork with the NY Surrogate’s Court along with a nominal filing fee and a certified original death certificate.

As a NY estate lawyer, I have offered this advice more times than I care to remember to potential clients who had recently suffered the unthinkable.  Knowing that there is an expedient and practical solution to tie up their loved one’s NY estate without the assistance of a NY estate lawyer can bring someone nominal comfort in an otherwise difficult time.  However if your spouse’s probatable NY estate is more than $50,000.00 in value the assistance of an experienced NY estate lawyer will be required.

 If you or a family member have questions regarding a NY estate matter it never hurts to ask the opinion of an experienced NY estate lawyer.  Feel free to call the NY estate lawyers at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates for a free consultation at (718) 261-2444.  Our NY estate lawyers have more than 60 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.

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