When a person dies, who inherits depends on whether there is a Will and who the living relatives are and their relationship to the person who died.
When the person who died (the Decedent) had a Will then the Will must be filed in Surrogate’s Court and admitted (approved) for probate. Probate is the process of proving that the Will is valid (legally acceptable). During probate, the Will is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that it’s the Last Will and Testament of the person who died. Once the Judge in Surrogate’s Court, who is called the Surrogate, is convinced that the Will is legally acceptable, the Executor named in the Will is appointed to give out the estate (everything of value) that belonged to the person who died and carry out the wishes of the person who died. The Surrogate’s Court oversees this process.
If the Decedent died without a Will, then an administration proceeding should be filed. If the Decedent had less than $50,000 of personal property with a Will or without a Will, then a small estate, also called a Voluntary Administration proceeding, can be filed instead.