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Wills and the probate process

In many cases, a probate is essential to a will. The probate is the process that orchestrates the fulfillment of a testator's wishes for the distribution of assets.

If you are the beneficiary of a will, it is important that you understand the probate process. There are a few key elements to become familiar with.


In short, probate is the legal process for validating an estate distribution. There are several aspects of the process, but a few of the key actions include the following:

  • Assess the estate
  • Pay taxes
  • Settle debts
  • Distribute assets among beneficiaries

Powers of attorney should be familiar with these actions, as they must fulfill the duties with oversight from the courts. If a judge finds a power of attorney to be unfit, the court may appoint a different power to complete the job.


There are certain assets that the courts may consider exempt from the probate process. There are different assets that may qualify, but there are a few common options:

  • Retirement and life insurance benefits
  • Trust assets
  • Some jointly held properties

Along with assets, there are certain estates that are exempt from probate in general. To determine whether probate is necessary or for a full list of exempt assets, parties should review New York's estate laws. It may also be beneficial to consult with a knowledgeable attorney.

Will considerations

Though the court makes the final decision on the distribution of an estate and will pay all taxes and debts first, the court does defer to the will for the distribution of the remaining property. However, the will must be valid. The state of New York requires for the will to be in writing, and it must contain two witness signatures.

This is a brief overview of the probate process and how a will affects it. Take some time to review and understand the laws so you may choose the best course of action for your particular situation.


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