Most estates will have to go through probate in New York, but if you have a small estate, the process may look a little different.
According to the New York State Bar Association, if you have a small estate, it will go through a voluntary administration instead of probate.
Small estate designation
You have a small estate if your personal property is worth $50,000 or less. The property considered for the calculation is any financial accounts, personal assets and other things you own as the sole owner. It does not include real property, such as a home, or anything owned jointly. It also does not include accounts with beneficiaries.
If you own property, then you must go through the regular probate proceedings.
Voluntary administration requires going through a Surrogate’s Court proceeding. It occurs regardless of whether or not you have a will as long as your estate has the small estate designation.
The court will appoint someone to handle your estate if you did not have a will. This will usually be a close relative, but the court can appoint anyone to hold this position.
The person will then collect and distribute your assets. Distribution occurs according to the law, which will give assets first to your spouse and any children, or your will. The person will also have to pay any debts you had using estate assets.
Your estate may not have to go through probate if it is small enough and you do not own real property, but it is still a good idea to have a will so you can ensure your assets go to heirs according to your wishes.