Probate is the process by which a will is proved to the satisfaction of the Surrogate (Judge) to be the valid Last Will and Testament of the person who died (decedent). You are not required to have an attorney to handle an estate proceeding, but be aware that estate proceedings can range from the relatively simple to the extremely complex. In many cases, it may be impossible at the beginning of the process to foresee what questions or issues may arise, it is advisable to seek the assistance of counsel.
Who Can File for Probate
If there is a will, the person named as Executor or, if that person is deceased or unable to act, the person named as Successor Executor can file for probate of a will. The original will and a certified copy of the death certificate must be filed with the probate petition and other supporting documents in the Surrogate's Court located in the county in which the decedent was lived (primary residence). There will be a filing fee based on the size of the estate.
If the value of the estate is under $30,000 (exclusive of certain types of property, the clerk of court can provide more information as to whether you qualify) and the decedent owned no real estate, a small estate proceeding may be filed. The filing fee is only $1.00. This proceeding is available for persons who died with or without a will.