When a loved one dies, some family members may be waiting for the “reading of the will.” Similar to what one sees in movies, one expects a lawyer to come, read him the will, and tell him what he will inherit from the deceased. If no lawyer has come yet, one wonders, “how long after a person dies will beneficiaries be notified?”
In New York, there is no formal “reading of the will.” Beneficiaries and heirs are notified when the proposed executor files a petition to probate the will. Usually, a proposed executor will file a petition for probate anytime between one to six months after the person has died.
Notice to heirs
In the petition for probate, there is a portion where the proposed executor needs to write down the names, relationships, and addresses of the heirs. Who are these heirs? They are the persons listed in Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL) § 4-1.1. The heirs to be notified depend on who has survived the deceased. In New York, these heirs are also called distributees.
For example, if the deceased left a spouse, two children, and both parents, only the spouse and two children are considered distributees and will be notified. Under EPTL § 4-1.1, when the deceased is survived by a spouse, children, and parents, only the spouse and children are entitled to inherit from the deceased. Because the spouse and children survived the deceased, the parents are excluded from inheriting from the deceased.
In the petition for probate, notice is required to be sent to the distributees, whether or not they are mentioned in the will as beneficiaries. The notice to the distributees, which includes a copy of the will, is mandatory because this notice gives the distributees (whether or not mentioned in the will as a beneficiary) the opportunity to contest the will. The distributees may waive service and consent to the probate petition by filing their waiver and consent forms. If these distributees refuse to execute waiver and consent forms, the court will issue a citation to them.
Notice to beneficiaries
In the petition for probate, there is also a portion where the proposed executed needs to list down the names, relationships, and addresses of the beneficiaries. Who are the beneficiaries? The beneficiaries are the ones who stand to receive something from the will of the deceased person. These beneficiaries need not be distributees. For example, if the deceased person left $5000 to his friend in his will, his friend is not a distributee but is a beneficiary. The beneficiary does not need to execute a waiver and consent form, nor does the beneficiary need to be issued a citation. Notice, however, will be sent to the beneficiary along with a copy of the will.
When will beneficiaries be notified when a person dies?
Formally, the will’s beneficiaries will be notified when the proposed executor files the petition for probate. When the proposed executor files the petition for probate would depend on a lot of factors: whether the will has been found, whether the proposed executor was able to secure the services of a lawyer to file the petition for probate, whether the proposed executor was able to get all the names and addresses of the required persons to be notified of the petition. Generally, the proposed executor would file the petition for probate a few months after the deceased person has died.
In New York, one of the supporting documents to a probate petition is Form P-6, Notice of Probate/Affidavit of Mailing. This notice/affidavit, executed by the person who mailed the notice to the beneficiary, is submitted to the court to ensure that all beneficiaries listed in the will are notified of the petition for probate.
If you did not receive a notice of the petition for probate, then you are either: (a) not a distributee; and (b) not a beneficiary. To be sure, once the will is admitted to probate, it becomes a public document and anyone can access and read the will for a small fee.
If you would like to know whether you are a beneficiary or not entitled to notice of the petition to probate the will, go to the Surrogate’s Court where the decedent last resided and ask whether a petition for probate has been filed under the name of the deceased. This can give you more clarity on whether you need to be notified of the will’s probate.
If you are beneficiary and you need legal advice, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.