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Changes to New York’s Small Estates Law

** This article has been revised from its original version which was published on September 23, 2020.

Senate Bill S4951A effectively amended the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) § 1301 to increase the gross value of a “small estate” to $50,000. This change applied to estate administration actions and proceedings that began on or after November 25, 2019, regardless of when the decedent passed away.

SCPA § 1301

Prior to this change, SCPA § 1301 indicated that a small estate is an estate with personal property having a gross value of $30,000 or less. It should be noted that if the decedent owned real property, such as a house, condominium, or land in their individual name, then the decedent did not leave a small estate regardless of value. If you are an administrator of an estate and have questions about whether an estate meets these qualifications, reach out to an estate planning attorney in New York.

Voluntary Administration

A small estate administration, or more formally, a “Voluntary Administration,” is a simpler and less expensive proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court. It doesn’t matter whether the decedent died testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will).

Testate vs. Intestate

In the event that the decedent had a will, the executor named in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament files a Small Estate Affidavit with the Surrogate’s Court in the county in which the decedent resided. If the decedent died without a will, the closest heir should file the Small Estate Affidavit. The Surrogate’s Court will then appoint the person as the Voluntary Administrator of the Estate and issue a certificate for each asset listed in the Small Estate Affidavit. The filing fee to commence the Voluntary Administration is one dollar ($1.00).


It is important to note that the $50,000 limit applies only to assets that are subject to probate. If the decedent had other assets that passed by operation of law to beneficiaries (i.e., an IRA, life insurance, etc.), the value of those assets is not included.

The New York State Courts have a Small Estate Do-It-Yourself program that walks individuals through the paperwork needed to commence the Voluntary Administration. Should you need assistance with commencing the Voluntary Administration, please contact one of our estate planning attorneys in New York at (516) 683-1717. We can ensure the paperwork has been filed out and submitted correctly.

It is important to speak with a qualified estate planning attorney in New York if you are the administrator of an estate. Our attorneys are familiar with estate laws that affect your role and can advise you on any necessary documents, court dates, and filing fees that may be involved.

Please do not hesitate to contact Russo Law Group, P.C, with estate administration or probate questions. Benefit from our experience, as well as caring and compassionate staff. You may also take advantage of our free seminars and webinars to learn more about how Russo Law Group, P.C., helps with estate planning needs.

Katie Ann Trotta

Russo Law Group, P.C.
100 Quentin Roosevelt Blvd., Suite 102
Garden City, NY 11530
516-683-1717 Ext. 2142

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