When an individual dies with their assets solely in their own name and a lack of named beneficiaries, said assets must go through the court system before they can be passed onto the decedent’s heirs.

If you have a Last Will and Testament (Will), the process is called probate. If you don’t have a will, the process is called Estate Administration. When a will is involved, the initial step of probate is to “prove the will.” This is done by having the nominated executor send a copy of the will to all of the decedent’s legal heirs (those who were legally entitled to inherit from them under intestacy rules). If those people consent to the will, then all is well and the process can proceed. If they don’t consent, then there is a will contest, and legal proceedings will follow. This can be a costly and time-consuming process.

Once the will is approved, and the bills of the estate are paid, assets get distributed according to the will. When there is an estate administration, New York’s laws of inheritance (intestacy), not the wishes of the deceased person, determines who gets the assets. Both probate and estate administrations are available to the public. According to a CNN Money study, probate costs between five and seven percent of the Estate. In New York, estates take at least eight months to complete, whether there is a will or not.

Often, estates do not distribute money until the estate is complete and settled. If you have property in multiple states, then a court proceeding will need to be open in those states as well. The problem with most wills and with New York’s rules, is that if there is not a will, the process is called an Estate Administration. The person who is asking to be the administrator must notify the same people as if there was a will.

Please do not hesitate to call the Syracuse or Watertown offices of Safe Harbor Wills & Trusts  with any questions or concerns. We are available to help you around the clock, 24/7.