The probate process can be complex and time-consuming, causing many people to wonder how long probate takes in New York. Generally, it takes about one year to probate most estates, but several factors could come into play, making the process shorter or longer.

If you lost a loved one and would like to access their estate, Bronx personal injury attorneys can help you understand the probate process. They can explain what to expect at each stage and how to prepare yourself. That makes the process as smooth and efficient as possible for you and your family.

What Is the Probate Process?

Probate is an executor’s legal process to settle a deceased person’s affairs and distribute their estate. The first step entails appointing an executor or administrator for the estate in question. The designated person has the authority to handle all the affairs of the probate process and the estate.

The legal documents that give an executor the authority to handle the estate or its affairs are letters of testamentary. The administrator may receive a commission for their time and effort to distribute the estate. The commission depends on the size of the estate.

While a beneficiary nominates an executor or administrator for the estate, the court must appoint them officially. The executor locates the decedent’s assets and gathers them for safeguarding. They can then legally begin the process of settling the estate, which involves the following steps:

Filing the Probate Petition

The executor files the original will and a copy of the death certificate alongside the probate petition in the Surrogate’s court where the deceased lived. A filing fee is payable depending on the size of the estate.

Giving Notice

The executor must notify all creditors and heirs through the mail that the estate is in probate to facilitate the proceedings. The notice indicates the time the creditors have to act on the information. The executor must also inform the public about the deceased’s demise. Bronx estate planning attorneys can guide you on how the process works and what to do at each step.

Paying Outstanding Taxes and Debts

Before distributing the estate to the beneficiaries, the executor must pay outstanding property taxes, home equity loans, mortgage payments, and other applicable accounts. If the estate doesn’t have enough cash to meet these obligations, the executor may sell some assets to raise the money required.

Distributing What Remains as Directed in the Will or State Intestacy Law

The estate’s heirs, also known as distributees, are named in the initial probate petition. The executor serves them with a notice, also known as a citation, requiring them to submit to the Surrogate’s court jurisdiction.

The probate process is a matter of public law in New York, and the precise rules governing the process are available in the Estates Powers and Trust Law (EPTL) and the Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act.

How Long is Probate in New York?

Most probate cases take an average of 12 to 15 months to settle, some taking a few months and others as much as three years.

The difference between short probate and a long one depends on the following factors:


Banks, courts, and insurance companies have many bureaucracies that can delay estate administration. These hold-ups can be frustrating because you can’t control the outcome or do anything about the case until it’s resolved. Sometimes, you may become lucky with the paperwork and have the tasks completed on schedule.

Illiquid Assets

Illiquid assets are another factor that can delay settling an estate. An estate that contains assets that are difficult to sell can delay the estate administration process. Examples include shares in a private business or real estate property with tenants who refuse to leave.

Estate Tax

The probate process will usually take 18 months to three years if estate tax returns are involved. The estate administrator may not distribute the estate to the beneficiaries until they’ve received a closing letter from the tax authorities. It could take several months or years to get the letter.

When Is Probate Necessary in New York City?

The probate process in New York is necessary if someone leaves assets in their estate upon demise, whether they left a will or not. However, New York laws exempt small estates from probate, which are assets with less than $50,000 in assets.

The court appoints an executor named in the decedent’s will for small estates. It could nominate an heir as a voluntary administrator if the decedent had no will. The court issues a certificate for each asset the administrator collects and distributes.

Can I Avoid Probate in New York?

With proper estate planning, anyone can avoid putting their loved ones through probate to distribute the assets. Various estate planning tools can exempt assets from the probate estate to prevent them from being subjected to the process.

One common way is to establish a trust to hold assets. A trustee is named to manage the affairs of the property on behalf of the beneficiaries. Once the property is in the trust, it’s no longer part of the probate process.

Another approach is to use beneficiary designations to transfer property upon death. Some assets that have beneficiary designations include:

  • Retirement or pension accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Bank or brokerage accounts with a “transfer on death” or “payable on death” designation

Such assets are payable to the beneficiaries upon death. To avoid probate, you may also hold property in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. Bronx estate planning attorneys can help you plan your estate to protect your loved ones from probate after your demise.

An Estate Planning Lawyer Offering Sound Advice

It’s natural to wonder how long the probate process takes in New York after the demise of a loved one. The truth is that the length of time required varies from one case to another depending on various factors. Assuming the heirs are easy to locate, the will is uncontested, the debts are easy to resolve, and no appraisals are necessary, the executor can complete the process in three to six months. In more complex cases, probate can take years to complete.

Working with estate planning attorneys in the Bronx can make the process easier. Their assistance can save you time and effort as they can work to ensure the paperwork is correct and everyone with interest in the estate receives the required notifications.

Our lawyers are experienced in estate litigation cases and can work with you to resolve the matter. Contact us to schedule a FREE case evaluation.