Understanding What Is Exempt from Probate in New York

Navigating the probate process in New York can be daunting, especially if you're unsure about which assets need to go through this legal proceeding. Probate is the court-supervised process of authenticating a last will and testament if the deceased made one. It includes locating and determining the value of the deceased's assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to their rightful beneficiaries. However, not all assets must go through probate. Here's what you need to know about assets that are typically exempt from probate in New York:probate process

1. Jointly Owned Property

Assets held in joint tenancy or as tenancy by the entirety (a form of joint ownership that is available only to married couples) automatically pass to the surviving owner without going through probate. This is due to the right of survivorship, which allows the property to pass directly to the surviving joint tenant.

2. Payable-on-Death and Transfer-on-Death Accounts

Bank accounts and other financial instruments that have a designated payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary also bypass the probate process. The designated beneficiary can claim the asset directly from the institution holding the account without any need for probate intervention.

3. Retirement Accounts

Retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, generally do not need to go through probate if a beneficiary is named. These accounts will pass directly to the named beneficiary and are not subject to probate proceedings, unless the estate itself is named as the beneficiary.

4. Life Insurance Policies

Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary are exempt from probate in New York. The proceeds from these policies are paid directly to the beneficiaries shortly after the policyholder's death, without probate court involvement.

5. Trust Assets

Assets held in a revocable or irrevocable trust are not subject to probate in New York. Because the trust owns the assets, they are transferred according to the terms of the trust, not the will, and therefore do not go through the probate process.

6. Small Estates

New York has a small estate proceeding, often referred to as voluntary administration, which is a simplified probate process available if the deceased did not leave a lot of property. If the personal property (excluding real estate) of the deceased is valued under a certain threshold, which is currently $50,000, it may qualify for this simplified process.

Understanding these exceptions can help you better plan your estate and possibly minimize the assets that must go through probate, easing the burden on your beneficiaries. For those dealing with an estate or planning their own, consulting with an estate planning attorney can provide personalized guidance tailored to specific circumstances.

Navigating estate planning and understanding what assets are exempt from probate in New York are crucial steps in ensuring a smoother transition for your loved ones. If you're setting up your estate or handling one, don't hesitate to seek the services of a Brooklyn probate attorney to navigate these complexities effectively.


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