What Are The Differences Between Formal And Informal Probate Proceedings?

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Introduction to Probate

Probate is the legal process through which a person’s will is validated, and their assets are distributed after their death. In New York City, probate can be conducted through two main procedures: formal probate and informal probate. Each has its own set of rules, advantages, and complexities.

Formal Probate Proceedings

Formal probate proceedings are characterized by their adherence to a strict set of rules and court supervision. Here are the key aspects of formal probate:

1. Court Supervision

In formal probate, the court closely supervises the entire process, ensuring that all legal requirements are met. This level of oversight is designed to protect the interests of all parties involved.

2. Complexity

Formal probate proceedings can be more complex and time-consuming compared to informal probate. They often involve multiple court hearings and extensive paperwork.

3. Contesting the Will

If there are disputes or challenges to the validity of the will, formal probate provides a structured process for addressing these issues in court.

4. Executor Appointment

The court appoints an executor if one is not named in the will or if the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve.

Informal Probate Proceedings

Informal probate proceedings, on the other hand, are generally simpler and more streamlined. Here are the key aspects of informal probate:

1. Less Court Supervision

Informal probate involves minimal court supervision. The court’s role is primarily to ensure that the will is genuine and that the executor is qualified.

2. Expediency

Informal probate is often faster and more efficient than formal probate. It can significantly reduce the time it takes to distribute assets to beneficiaries.

3. Uncontested Wills

Informal probate is typically used when there are no disputes over the will’s validity or the appointment of the executor.

4. Executor Appointment

If the will names an executor, they can serve without court appointment, as long as they meet the legal requirements. If there is no named executor or they are unable to serve, the court may appoint one.

Choosing Between Formal and Informal Probate

Deciding between formal and informal probate proceedings depends on various factors, including the complexity of the estate, the presence of disputes, and the preferences of the deceased individual’s family. It’s important to consult with an experienced probate attorney to determine the most appropriate approach.


Formal and informal probate proceedings in New York City offer different paths for settling an estate. While formal probate provides a higher level of court oversight and is necessary in certain situations, informal probate offers a faster and simpler alternative when the will is uncontested. Understanding the differences between these two processes is essential for efficient estate administration.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group PLLP.

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