The following information is provided as an informal guide only for frequently asked questions about estate proceedings, which we primarily practice handling several hundred every year. We also provide online answers to give back to the community of users researching the Internet for representation.
This informal guide should not be relied upon as legal advice.
If you need to speak with an attorney, please contact us to schedule a consultation.
What is an estate proceeding?
In New York, an estate proceeding is commenced in Surrogate’s Court to transfer assets owned by a decedent in his/her individual name to beneficiaries under a Will or by statute to the next of kin.
Estate proceedings can be commenced by appointing a fiduciary:
- Executor named under a Will
- Administrator designated by statute if no Will
- Voluntary Administrator for small estate with $30,000 or less in personal property
A court appointed fiduciary can then:
- Discover and marshal all estate assets
- Sell personal and real property, if need be
- Pay administration expenses and claims against the estate
- Distribute assets after completing an accounting
- Close the estate proceeding
How long does it take to complete an estate proceeding?
In New York, an estate proceeding must remain open by law for at least 7 months from the date of the appointment of the fiduciary to allow creditors time to present claims. The law provides no time limit to complete or close an estate; however, all paperwork for a proceeding should ideally be completed within 1 fiscal year, or 12 months, from the date of death.
Given our experience in Surrogate’s Court, we can help you administer an estate to allow you to make partial distributions in advance of this timeline to benefit your family.
Estate proceedings can take longer than a fiscal year for:
- Objections being filed against a Will
- Sale of real property or ongoing business
- Taxable estates
- Heirship proceeding to determine next of kin
- Contested accountings
How much does it cost to administer an estate?
The total cost of an estate proceeding in New York typically is dependent upon the total value and time to marshal all gross estate assets. The main costs are the fiduciary’s commission, attorney fees and necessary administration costs.
The commission is the fee an estate fiduciary, other than a volunteer administrator, will be paid pursuant to Section 2307 of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA). This fee is taxable income to the person who is appointed as an Executor or Administrator and is calculated as a percentage of the estate assets. A commission can be fully or partially waived.
Attorney fees will vary based on the complexity of each estate on an hourly or a fixed percentage rate based retainer.
Necessary administration costs include court filing fees which vary from $1 to $1,250 depending on the type of proceeding and/or estate assets valuation, postage, copies, process server fees, transcripts, real property appraisals and accountant’s fees, to name a few examples.
How to commence an estate proceeding?
To start an estate proceeding, we recommend that you speak to estate attorney before doing anything because after reviewing thousands of petitions as former members of the Surrogate’s Court staff, we cannot emphasize enough that inadvertent procedural mistakes made at the beginning of a matter when it is first filed, can and most likely will result in complications thereafter and/or delays that ultimately prolong distribution of the estate assets.
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