As people make their way through a busy, eventful life, they may not give the subject of probate much thought. Perhaps they have an idea of how it works in New York, but is that idea accurate?

Here is an overview of the probate process in the state.

Explaining probate

There is nothing mysterious about probate. It is the process by which the court validates the last will and testament of a person who died. Once the court confirms that the will is valid, the executor named in the will can distribute assets to beneficiaries according to the wishes of the decedent.

Filing the will

The executor named by the decedent is responsible for filing the will together with a copy of the death certificate, the probate petition and any supporting documents required. The filing goes to the Surrogate Court located in the same county where the deceased lived.

The Court requires that the heirs, also known as the distributees, are named in the will. They will receive a notice, or citation, explaining that the executor has filed a petition to manage the estate and that the Surrogate Court will have final authority over their rights as heirs. They can either sign a waiver consenting to the naming of the executor or appear in court to put forth their objections to the appointment.

Locating the death certificate

The executor can obtain copies of the death certificate from the funeral director. He or she will require certified copies to use for certain legal purposes. The executor can obtain these from the Office of Vital Records if the person died in New York City, or from the New York State Department of Health if the death took place elsewhere in the state.

Seeking help

In many respects, probate is a fairly straightforward process. However, the more assets and beneficiaries there are, the more complex it becomes and the more legal guidance the executor will need to ensure there are no missteps during the administration of the decedent’s estate.