When a New York resident dies without having a will, the process of distributing the estate is taken out of the hands of the people who have a vested interest and thrown into probate. It may be that people who expected to receive a large inheritence end up with nothing because of the lack of a will being drawn up.
In cases where there is a valid will, however, the process can still be a complex one. The will needs to be validated during the probate process, and this can take a considerable amount of time and effort as well. The process can be complicated by variables such as overseas assets held by the decedent, or if there is a question over if the will is a valid one.
The probate process contains several incremental processes that can add to the length of time it takes to resolve the situation. These can include such issues as officially filing the will; appointing an executor (sometimes, but not always, a family member); collecting debts for the estate and paying the estate’s creditors; and, last but not least, distributing the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries.
There are often many different parties with a vested interest in the outcome of a particular probate process. These might include executors, some of whom may be neophytes when it comes to the estate process; heirs and beneficiaries, who are often eager to receive distributions from the estate; and creditors who might be expecting to be repaid.
Source: For more information about the probate process, please visit our Queens will probate page.