Probate and Estates
When someone dies, any property or assets they owned will fall into one of two general categories. First are those assets which are disposed of automatically by law, such as jointly owned property or property with a named beneficiary.
The second category consists of those assets which are owned only by the deceased and pass into his or her estate. Disposing of these assets are determined by how the estate is divided.
Every person has a default will, written by New York State. This will provided by the EPTL and applies to everyone who does not opt out of the default will.
Anyone can opt out of the default will by having his or her own will. A will overrides the default disposition. However, merely having a will is not sufficient. It must be determined that it is a valid will by a court proceeding. This process is known as probate.