When a family member passes away, you cannot just distribute their assets yourself. If there was a will, it must first be presented to the Surrogates Court and probated. If your family member died intestate or without a will, an application must be made to have an administrator appointed for the estate. Unless the estate is quite small, the Surrogates Court will require that notice of the Probate Petition or the Petition for Letters of Administration be served upon anyone who is a beneficiary under the will, or anyone who might be entitled to benefit from the estate under the statutory plan for intestate distribution. Once the executor or administrator of the estate has been appointed, they will commence to gather or marshal the assets of the estate.
What is involved in settling an estate? While no two estates are the same, here is a partial list of the duties typically required:
- Locate and file the Last Will and Testament with the local court
- File required probate documents with the court
- Locate, inventory, manage, close and transfer personal assets/accounts
- Appraise and value all assets
- Pay debts and expenses associated with the last illness and funeral
- Ascertain, and notify, all known creditors of the estate
- Make payments to creditors, discharge obligations and obtain creditor releases
- Process and receive life insurance death benefits
- Secure personal residence and tangible personal property
- File appropriate tax returns (federal and New York) and make appropriate tax elections
- Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes
- Obtain tax releases and closing letters from local courts, the IRS and state taxing authorities
- Make specific bequests, as well as partial and final distributions to beneficiaries (including packing and shipping of tangible personal property)
- Provide complete detailed accounting to the local court and estate beneficiaries
As you can imagine, accomplishing all of this is difficult enough on its own without the added stress and grief inherent in losing a loved one. You do not have to go through this process alone. As experienced probate attorneys in White Plains, New York, we are here to help, and will guide you and your family through the process with sensitivity and compassion for your loss. Contact us today to discuss your particular situation and needs.
Should I use a Trust to avoid probate?
Not necessarily. Despite what some media financial wizards say, not everyone needs a trust. In New York, probating a will is not overly cumbersome, time consuming or expensive. There are expenses incurred with setting up and maintaining trusts. Everyone’s situation is different and your needs should be evaluated individually so that the proper plan for you can be put into place.