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Changes to New York’s Small Estates Law

The Senate Bill S4951A effectively amended Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) § 1301 to increase the gross value of a “small estate” to $50,000. This change applies to actions and proceedings commenced 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 the estate of a domiciliary or non-domiciliary who dies leaving 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 his or her individual name, then the decedent did not leave a small estate regardless of value.

Voluntary Administration

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

Testate vs. Intestate

In the event that the decedent died testate, the executor named in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament will file a Small Estate Affidavit with the Surrogate’s Court in the county in which the decedent resided. If the decedent died intestate, the closest heir should file the Small Estate Affidavit. The Surrogate’s Court will then appoint said 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 are 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 us at (516) 683-1717.

Katie 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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