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Welcome Change in Small Estates Law Simplifies Process for Families

by Nancy Larcher December 6, 2019

Effective November 25, 2019, estates with certain assets of $50,000 or less may now take advantage of the user-friendly “small estate administration” option of administering an estate.  This option is available in connection with all proceedings commenced on or after November 25, 2019, even if the death occurred prior to that date.

A small estate administration, also known as a voluntary administration, is simpler and less expensive than filing for formal administration or probate.  It can only be used, however, under certain circumstances depending on the assets held by the person who died.  A small estate administration may not be used if the assets passing through the estate include real property, such as a house, a condominium, or land.  If the assets passing through the estate only include personal property, a small estate administration is an option.  Note that interests in Co-ops are personal property because the owner is a shareholder in a cooperative corporation.

A small estate administration requires that an affidavit be filed in the Surrogate’s Court of the county where the person resided at death.  Most importantly, the filing fee for a small estate administration is only $1.  Under the law prior to this change, if an estate was above the $30,000 threshold and below $50,000, petitioners would have to pay a $215 in filing fee and often needed to pay an attorney to assist with the petition and service of process on the people interested in the estate.  These costs have been a hardship for low-income New Yorkers.

New York State Courts has a Small Estates Do-It-Yourself online program that walks you through the process of filling out the form and generates a completed form when you are done.  If you need further assistance, please contact the Planning and Estates Law Project at (212) 382-6756.

Nancy Larcher is the Project Coordinator for the City Bar Justice Center’s Planning and Estates Law Project.

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