Small Estate Proceedings (click here for printable PDF)

When a person dies with less than $50,000 of personal property, it’s considered a small estate. Personal property includes assets owned in that person’s name alone such as money, furniture, jewelry, or a car; and exclude real property such as a house or plot of land. A Small Estate Proceeding is necessary to administer the estate of the person who died (the Decedent) to their family. The court proceeding to administer the small estate is called Voluntary Administration.

A Small Estate Proceeding is filed in the county where the Decedent was domiciled or had their primary residence. In a small estate proceeding, the Surrogate’s Court appoints a Voluntary Administrator. This person will have access to the estate and can distribute the assets.

  • If the Decedent had a Will, the Executor of the Will is appointed the Voluntary Administrator.
  • If there is no Will, then the closest relative is usually named the Voluntary Administrator.

If there is a possibility of a wrongful death action or other lawsuit in the future that could pay an award to the Decedent’s estate, a small estate proceeding would not be appropriate to settle the estate even if the Decedent owned less than $50,000 of personal property at the time of death.

In that case, a probate or administration proceeding would need to be filed depending on whether the Decedent had or didn’t have a Will.

Access Justice Brooklyn can provide assistance with a Small Estate Proceeding of a New York Decedent if:

  • You are a Brooklyn resident
  • You have the “Original Will”, if one was completed
  • If the Decedent died without a Will, you are a “distributee” or the closest living relative
  • You have knowledge of the deceased other “distributees” and their location
  • You are aware of the Decedent’s assets and their values
  • You can provide documents required by the Court which can be discussed during an attorney consultation.

For assistance, please call our intake line at (718) 624-3894 or click here to begin an online intake.