New York – November 15, 2020

New York probate actions can sometimes be confusing for the loved ones of individuals who have died without preparing a last will document.  Many times individuals believe that if they are a parent, or sibling of a deceased individual, they will become heir to their estate. This is not necessarily true under New York Law.  A distributee, or multiple distributees are parties that may be entitled to inherit an estate if there is no will.  New York Probate Law outlines acceptable distributees in order of priority which names spouses (when there are no children), spouses and children of the deceased, parents, siblings, and grandparents.  A New York Probate attorney can assist individuals with questions and concerns regarding this line of priority in distributing an estate.


Distributees need to be identified for notification purposes in probate actions when there is  a will and administration actions when there is no will.  These individuals are usually the only people who are in a position to challenge a will.  Executors should understand that the first task at hand is to identify all possible distributees by name and current address.


A notification will then be sent along with a copy of a will to notify individuals of a probate proceeding in New York Surrogate Court.  This notification is usually certified in some sense depending upon the state where the distributees live.  If distributees live  in New York, they must be personally served  by a service processor, other U.S. individuals may be served by certified mail with a return receipt requested for proof of service.  If distributees live outside  of the U.S., they can be served by international registered mail return receipt  requested.  Distributees may allow waive their right to formal service by singing a waiver and consent form that states they agree that:

  • The will is valid,
  • The will should be admitted to probate,
  • The petitioner should be appointed as executor of the estate.

Probate actions move smoothly through the court  when a sole distributee is named as executor  of a will.  There are times when an heir cannot be located and is unable to receive and accept service of the notification of the will.  If heirs cannot be found, the New York Surrogate Court must be notified and they can  allow the use of newspaper publication to act as service.

County representative involved.

If no one comes forward after service, or heirs cannot be found, the county public administrator usually represents the interests of the State of New York to administer the estate.

Estate plan.

Consider talking to legal professionals about preemptive measures to be incorporated into estate plans that will allow for a smooth probate administration in New York naming those who will be given estate distributions.  The clearer a person lays out their wishes into writing, the smaller the margin for error and disputes between executors, trustees, and beneficiaries. An estate planning attorney can be of assistance in this regard.

Hire an attorney.

Contact Attorney Ron Meyers with questions regarding preemptive actions during estate planning that will allow probate administration to go smoothly and timely in New York Surrogate Court, as well as questions regarding the difference between beneficiaries name in a will and distributees when a will has not been drawn up.


Ron L. Meyers & Associates, PLLC

Address:  475 Park Avenue South, Suite 2100

Manhattan, NY 10016

Phone: 212-644-8787


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