Whether you are getting your affairs together and planning your estate or you have recently lost a close friend or loved one, it is important to understand the steps of estate administration and the probate process. The probate process is designed to ensure that the last will and testament left behind by the deceased is valid. It also ensures that the property in the will is distributed to the proper beneficiaries. 

In New York, the last will and testament is considered valid if the creator of the will signs the document without any pressure or influence. There must also be two witnesses present, who must sign the will in front of one another. 

Is probate necessary? 

Probate is required in the administration of some New York estates. All estates with a value of $30,000 or more must enter the probate process. Estates that are valued under that amount do not have to go through probate. Furthermore, any assets, including term life insurance policies, 401k plans, retirement accounts and IRAs with a named beneficiary are immune from probate. 

Is a living trust the answer? 

Assets and property placed in a living trust with a named beneficiary or a co-trust holder can bypass the probate process altogether. When the owner of the trust passes away, the money and/or property is automatically transferred into the other person’s name. Not only does this help beneficiaries get their funds quicker, but it saves court costs, time and potential work done by the administrator.