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5 Steps to Prepare for Probate

How should you prepare yourself for probate in New York?

Probate is the legal process of transferring property after a person's death. Usually, the terms of the transfer follow the intentions of one's will, but there are other sources that can come into play. In a nutshell, property is gathered and collected, debts are paid off, and then the rest of the assets are distributed accordingly.

It's always smart to think about how you'll want to prepare for the future. So, with that said, here are 5 steps to prepare for probate in New York:

  1. Familiarize yourself with probate process. Before you start diving into the actual preparation, you should familiarize yourself with the process. Probate can range from the simple to incredibly complicated, It's best to educate yourself on what probate looks like, as well as the language used by attorneys and judges.
  2. Choose a personal representative. Once you're familiar with what the general probate process entails and you're ready to get started, you'll need to first choose a personal representative. This person will ultimately administer your estate and help you carry out, to the best of his or her ability, your intentions through your assets, will, or other document. Keep in mind, you should not only pick someone loyal and trustworthy, but an organized person with thick skin, as well.
  3. Collect all necessary documents. All your assets will likely need to be appraised. In order to make this process run as smoothly as possible, you should have the necessary documents on hand -- such as tax statements, a proof of your assets, etc.
  4. Take inventory of assets and debt. Alongside the proof of your assets, you should compile an inventory to help you organize exactly where you want each asset to go. The same goes for all debts that you have or foresee having at the time of your death. Also, keep in mind that New York law has a statutory priority for claims, in which certain claims (such as funeral expenses) are placed higher than others. This might mean that certain beneficiaries may not get what you think they'll get if your debts aren't paid off.
  5. Lawyer up. Hiring an estate planning or probate attorney is not required, but would be ideal -- especially if you have a complicated estate. A lawyer can help you through the process smoothly and efficiently. An attorney will also ensure that you meet your deadlines and avoid irreparable mistakes.

Remember, even if it seems like it's too soon, it never hurts to be too prepared.

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