Schwartz, Fang & Keating, P.C. of Long Island, NY has over 30 years of experience in estate planning. Our Long Island, New York City, and New Jersey estate planning attorneys office are available to help you with the many legal considerations after a loved one passes away.
For most people, the financial and legal steps that need to be taken when a loved one passes away can be a confusing process. The responsibilites of estate administration ultimately fall on the person’s heirs and legatees (people named in the will). Our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys are here to help you during this difficult time.
Do I Need an Estate Administration Attorney?
When an individual passes away, the representative of the estate is responsible to handle a number of legal and financial matters while administering the estate. This is a very detailed and delicate process. Legal compliance and supervision by the court can complicate the administration for people. Federal estate taxes are constantly changing, and an estate administration attorney can help you move forward through these changes.
An executor is the person named in a will to lead the estate administration. The administrator of an estate is held to a very high standard and if they discharge their duties improperly, they can be held personally liable and receive harsh consequences.
Having an experience estate administration attorney on your side helps to handle the intricate legal and financial details. This can be a complex process, but by hiring a lawyer to help you administer the estate, you will be sure that bills are being paid and assets are distributed to the heirs.
What Does Estate Administration Consist of in New York?
Although it’s a relatively similar process, each state has their own details when it comes to estate administration. It is important to utilize an attorney during this time to be sure that this detailed process is carried out in accordance with the law. Although hiring a lawyer is not an absolute requirement, most people need the assistance navigating through this process.
In New York State, the administration of an estate includes:
- Petitioning the surrogate’s court for probate (or administration when there is not a valid will presented to the court) of the will for the appointment of an executor (or administrator) to execute the terms of the will (or to administer the estate in accordance with the laws of intestacy).
- Once appointed, the fiduciary will marshal and preserve estate assets.
- Next the fiduciary estimates the cash requirements of the estate and liquidates assets to the extent necessary to meet such requirements. The fiduciary must also satisfy debts of the decedent, to the extent due and payable. An executor (or administrator) would prepare and file any necessary tax returns and proceedings with the respective taxing authority.
- Then they would file an inventory of the decedent’s assets with the surrogate’s court.
- Finally, the fiduciary would distribute the assets of the estate. The assets would be distributed pursuant to the terms set forth in the will. However, if there is not a valid will provided to the court, then the laws of intestacy would control how the assets of the decedent are distributed.
Possible Delays and Exclusions
Certain assets may be excluded from the testamentary estate, yet are included in the taxable estate of a decedent. These are assets with beneficiary designations such as life insurance, retirement accounts, property held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, annuities and accounts with “transfer on death/pay on death” designations.
Through the course of the administration, the executor (or administrator) must be cognizant of any competing interests of the beneficiaries. The fiduciary must be sure that they uphold their fiduciary duty to all beneficiaries, as their actions could be called into question at any time.
Delays and additional costs in estate administration may occur in the probate process due to disagreements among surviving family members of the decedent. Proper planning during life can employ various tools to avoid or mitigate these problems, and facilitate the administration process.