Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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How Long Does Probate Take In New York?

How long does probate take in New York?  Generally about a year.  Although the time for how long a New York probate will take can be shorter or longer depending on the particular circumstances of the case, generally you should be prepared for the probate to take about 12 months.

The timeline for how long a New York probate will take depends on how long it takes to locate the will, get the appointment of an executor, settle the property of the estate, and close the estate.  The deadlines and timelines that must be observed under New York probate law also factor in to how long the probate takes.

Small Estates In New York: A Matter of Weeks

If the estate qualifies as a small estate in New York, the entire process can take a few weeks.  A small estate is the estate of a decedent who dies leaving personal property having a gross value of $50,000 or less, excluding exempt property.  See SCPA section 1301. Read about Small Estates In New York.  A voluntary administrator is appointed, and the process generally moves very quickly.

Routine Probate In New York: About a Year

A general, non-contested probate in New York will take about a year.

Appointment of the Executor

First, the executor of the estate is appointed.  After you have found your New York probate lawyer, obtained the decedent’s death certificate, located the decedent’s will, and gathered the decedent’s documents, your attorney will prepare the opening estate documents.

An executor named in the will must wait to be appointed as executor by the surrogate’s court before they can dispose of any part of the decedent’s estate.  See What Authority Does a New York Executor Have Before Letters Are Issued?

The appointment of the executor in a routine probate can take about 2 to 3 months.  Appointment of the executor can be delayed by missing information, difficulty in obtaining a death certificate, or delays in the court process.

Marshalling the Assets and Settling the Estate

The longest stretch of the probate process in New York is locating the Decedent’s assets, marshalling the assets, locating the creditors, and giving the proper notice to creditors and interested persons.

Creditors have 7 months from the appointment of the New York executor to file claims.  This necessarily lengthens how long the New York probate process takes.  Read about creditor claims in New York here.

If the decedent owned a business, unique and valuable property, or real estate, valuing and selling these assets will extend the probate process.

Closing the Estate

Certain documents must be filed to close out a New York estate. Once the estate has been administered, the executor must prepare a final accounting.   Many times an informal accounting will be fine, unless the heirs are not satisfied and request a formal accounting, which will make the probate take longer.

Once the heirs have signed off on the accounting, the estate can be distributed and the executor discharged.

What Delays Probate In New York?

There are many common issues that operate to throw wrenches in the New York probate process.  These include:

  1. A New York will contest. If a will contest is initiated, the length of time that probate will take is anyone’s guess.  It can take years to adjudicate the rights of the parties, the validity of the will, and who the fiduciary of the estate will be.
  2. Discord Among the Beneficiaries. Fighting beneficiaries, whether they are mad at each other or the executor, can delay probate in New York.  If a beneficiary wants to fight every notice, demand a formal accounting, or challenge the actions of the fiduciary, probate will take longer. We have written plenty times about beneficiaries fighting with fiduciaries, including here and here.
  3. Difficulty Locating Heirs. Sometimes the length of time a New York probate takes is impacted by difficulty in locating decedent’s heirs.  People move and lose contact with others, and locating people can take a long time.


How long your New York probate will take depends on several factors, many of which are out of your control.  Working with an experienced New York probate attorney is a good place to start to make sure that the probate process is as smooth as it can possibly be.

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