Advising Executors & Estate Administrators
If a loved one has recently passed, dealing with paperwork and legal issues is the last thing you want to be doing at this difficult time. At The Village Law Firm, we are committed to making the estate administration process as simple and stress-free as possible, so that you can focus on mourning your loss.
What to Do When a Loved One Passes
Following the death of a loved one, the deceased’s assets must be gathered and distributed to the heirs. The person who is charged with this legal responsibility depends on whether the deceased had a Will at the time of their death.
If a valid Will exists, the individual named as the executor in the Will is tasked with filing the Will with the Surrogate’s Court (the court that handles estate matters in the State of New York) to initiate a process called probate. The probate process has specific rules and requirements for ensuring that the deceased’s debts are paid and the remaining assets are distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will.
If the deceased died without a Will, then an Administrator is appointed to manage the estate and distribute the assets in accordance with the default state inheritance laws. New York law authorizes next of kin, in order of priority, can serve as the Administrator.
You Don’t Need to Go It Alone
As the Executor or Administrator, you will likely want to work with a lawyer to assist in filing the necessary documentation with the court and to provide guidance on fulfilling your responsibilities. In addition to not having to go it alone, having a lawyer protects you from exposure to legal claims by beneficiaries, debtors, and the tax authorities.
As an executor or administrator of an estate, you have immense responsibility – and corresponding liability. If the estate assets are not handled correctly, you may be personally liable for any mistakes – which can amount to thousands or even millions of dollars. That’s why it’s important to get sound legal advice.
Estate administration, or probate, is notorious for being a deeply fraught process, and for good reason. It is typically a lengthy, confusing, and complicated process, especially for someone with no experience in these matters. Even the smallest estates can be rife with complications.
If you are the sole executor and sole beneficiary of a small estate, you may be able to navigate the process on your own with the DIY resources provided by the Surrogate’s Court. However, if other beneficiaries are involved, if you don’t want to spend weeks or months of your life researching legal minutiae, or if you simply want to make sure that things are done properly, then you will likely want to hire a lawyer.
How We Help
At The Village Law Firm, our team of warm, caring professionals understand that dealing with legal headaches is the last thing you want to be doing following the loss of a loved one. That’s why we do everything in our power to make the process as smooth and painless as possible.
At the commencement of our engagement, we’ll give you an overview of the process, so you know what to expect in terms of time, money, and complexity. Then we’ll guide you every step of the way.
We provide estate administration services on an hourly basis. Most of our clients hire us to take care of everything, from soup to nuts, so that they can focus on other things in their lives. However, if you want to take on certain tasks to keep costs down, we’re happy to let you know what items might be appropriate for you to take on yourself. Note that you are not personally responsible for legal or other estate-related fees; these are paid out of estate funds.
Below are just some of the tasks required to administer an estate:
Locating and marshalling estate assets
Selling or transferring property
Preparing and filing an inventory of assets in surrogate’s court
Satisfying estate debts
Paying ongoing administration expenses such as professionals’ fees, court filing fees and appraisal fees
Filing an estate tax return
Preparing a judicial or informal accounting. An accounting is a detailed explanation of the assets that were collected, the income generated, the debts and expenses paid and the distributions, if any, that were made
Distributing the remaining assets in accordance with the terms of the will or under the laws of intestacy.
There are many issues that can arise during the estate administration process, including difficulty locating heirs and next-of-kin, will contests, family disputes, an inability to find the original Will, and minor or disabled beneficiaries who require a guardian ad litem to represent their interests in the probate proceeding. We have extensive experience successfully addressing these and many other probate issues.
We never take for granted the trust that is placed in us when we represent an individual who must navigate the estate administration process following the death of a loved one. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us to schedule a consultation.