Knowledge about the importance of a will is becoming more mainstream. However, many New Yorkers still put off creating this important estate planning document, which puts their assets and the distribution of those assets at risk. For many New York families, their loved ones pass away before any estate planning tools are utilized. When this happens, the matter will have to be addressed through probate court.

When an individual dies without a will and his or her estate is distributed through probate, many issues can be settled. For example, the state’s intestate succession statutes lay out which relatives will receive the estate in these circumstances, thereby reducing if not eliminating the need for litigation.

Much of the probate process is overseen by an estate administrator. Although the court typically appoints a surviving spouse as the estate administrator, this is not always the case. Individuals can petition the court for appointment as estate administrator, which requires a little work on their part. To do so, they need to analyze the estates assets and debts, file a petition with the court and provide notice to creditors and family members. Unless the petition is challenged and a more appropriate individual is identified, the petitioner will be appointed estate administrator.

Although probate can prove beneficial in some instances, many New Yorkers try to avoid it and for good reason. One reason to avoid probate is that it can be lengthy, thereby a costly process. It can also force assets to be distributed in a way that is in opposition to the deceased individual’s wishes. This can create conflict amongst family and friends, potentially even leading to long, drawn-out litigation. So, those who want to avoid the headaches of probate and ensure that their estate passes in accordance with their wishes should consider discussing their situation with an experienced estate planning attorney.