Small Estate Filing Changes

February 4, 2020

When someone dies, their possessions and assets are distributed to their loved ones. The courts are often involved with such inheritance matters. The costs associated with the process can be prohibitive when the total assets of an estate are small. For that reason, many states designate a specific threshold amount to determine if an estate is small enough to be handled through what is known as a voluntary administration, which allows the administrator of the estate to process forms with less court involvement and lower court costs.

Seeing that the small estate threshold amount needed adjustment, New York has increased the maximum amount of personal property in an estate that may qualify as a small estate to $50,000 or less. This amount increases the threshold from $30,000, which had been established nearly 20 years ago and brings the threshold in line with updated assessments for estate holdings for low- and middle-income New Yorkers.

Instead of costly court proceedings, the voluntary administration of a small estate can be handled for a $1 administration fee. The small estate filing is an option for estates covered by a will, as well as those without a will. Bill S4951A, which was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and immediately went into effect, accounts for all personal property, except for real estate.

Real Estate Complications

When real property is part of the estate, voluntary administration is not an option unless the real estate is jointly owned with another person. In that case, the property ownership is handled separately from the small estate filing. The real estate process moves through probate court or through an administration proceeding. If the estate involves solely owned property, it does not qualify as a small estate.

If a wrongful death allegation or some other litigation complicates the case, a small estate filing is not an option. In these cases, the estate should be settled either in probate court or through an administration proceeding, even if the estate involves less than $50,000 in personal property.

Filing Process

A small estate proceeding is handled in surrogate’s court in the county that had been the primary residence of the deceased. If there is a will, the executor will serve as the voluntary administrator. If there is no will, the court will appoint the closest heir to serve in this capacity. The administrator’s role is to file the small estate affidavit along with other relevant documentation, such as the original will and the death certificate. The administrator fills out a straight-forward form listing each of the estate’s assets and to whom each asset should be distributed to, according to the law. Subsequently, the surrogate’s court issues certification for each transfer.

Brooklyn Elder Law Litigation Attorneys at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP Assist Clients with Small Estate Filings

If you are administering a small estate, you may benefit from the advice of a lawyer with experience composing or enforcing small estate filings. The Brooklyn elder law litigation attorneys at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP can help you as you assess the estate’s assets and file the appropriate documents. Contact us online or call 212-495-8133 for an initial consultation. With offices in Brooklyn, New York, and Lakewood, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Manhattan, Long Island, and Westchester, New York.