Estate administration is the process of managing and distributing a person’s property (the “estate”) after death. If the person had a will, the will goes through probate. Probate is the process which gives the assets of the deceased to the living. The entire process is supervised by the surrogate court and, usually takes some time from start till end.
The emotional trauma brought on by the death of a close family member often is accompanied by bewilderment about the financial and legal steps the survivors must take during their time of grief. The spouse who passed away may have handled all of the couple’s finances. Or perhaps a child must begin taking care of probating an estate about which he or she knows little about. And this task may come on top of a rigorous daily schedule, commitments to family and work that can’t just be set aside and left un-attended. Finally, the estate itself may be in disarray or scattered among many different financial vehicles and investment accounts, which is not unusual with a generation that had seen banks collapse during the Depression.
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The estate planning attorney, elder law and probate attorneys at the law offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates can help the administrator of the estate with probate and the job of setting up the steps the surviving heirs and family members should take. These responsibilities ultimately fall on whoever was appointed executor or personal representative in the deceased family member’s will. Matters can be a bit more complicated in the absence of a will, because it may not be clear who has the responsibility of carrying out these steps.
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The attorneys at Rubinstein, Zeh & Associates are not only trained in handling simple probate and estate administration, will and probate administration matters, we take care of complex probate and estate administration, will and living trust estate tax matters in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County, Bronx, Westchester, Richmond County, Manhattan and Brooklyn Kings County New York.
While you are working with an estate planning, elder law and probate attorney you should take the following steps to safe guard the estate of the decedent.
First, secure the tangible property. This means anything you can touch, such as silverware, dishes, furniture, or artwork. You will need to determine accurate values of each piece of property, which may require appraisals. If property is disturbed by family members before you have the opportunity to take an inventory, this will become a difficult, if not impossible, task.
Second, take your time. Besides hiring the estate planning attorney, elder law and probate attorneys at the law offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates you do not need to take any other steps immediately. While bills do need to be paid, they can wait a month or two without adverse repercussions. It’s more important that you and your family have time to grieve. Financial matters can wait. (One exception: A home loan, auto loan and Social Security. Social Security should be notified within a month of death. If checks are issued following death, you could be in for a battle. For more on Social Security’s death procedures, click here. https://www.ssa.gov/survivors/
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When you’re ready, meet with the estate planning attorney, elder law and probate attorneys at the law offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates to review the steps necessary to administer the deceased’s estate. Bring as much information as possible regarding finances, taxes and debts. Don’t worry about putting the papers in order first; the lawyers at Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates will guide your through the process and have experience in organizing and understanding any and all confusing financial statements.
The exact rules of estate administration differ from state to state. In general, they include the following steps:
- Filing the will and petition at the probate court in order to be appointed executor or personal representative. In the absence of a will, heirs must petition the court to be appointed “administrator” of the estate.
- Marshaling, or collecting, the assets. This means that you have to find out everything the deceased owned. You need to file a list, known as an “inventory,” with the probate court. It’s generally best to consolidate all the estate funds to the extent that is possible. Bills and bequests should be paid from a single estate checking account, either one you establish or one set up by your attorney, so that you can keep track of all of the expenditures.
- Filing federal and state estate tax returns. You must also file a final income tax return for the decedent and, if the estate holds any assets and earns interest or dividends, an income tax return for the estate. If the estate does earn income during the administration process, it will have to obtain its own tax identification number in order to keep track of such earnings.
- Paying the Federal and State Estate taxes. In most state, if the estate exceeds $1 million in value there is a state tax and if an estate exceeds $5.34 million in value there is also an additional federal estate tax which must be filed within nine months of the date of death. If you miss this deadline and the estate is taxable, severe penalties and interest may apply. If you do not have all the information available in time, you can file for an extension and pay your best estimate of the tax due.
- Distributing property to the heirs and legatees. Generally, executors do not pay out all of the estate assets until the period runs out for creditors to make claims, which can be as long as a year after the date of death. But once the executor understands the estate and the likely claims, he or she can distribute most of the assets, retaining a reserve for unanticipated claims and the costs of closing out the estate.
- Filing a final account. The executor must file an account with the probate court listing any income to the estate since the date of death and all expenses and estate distributions. Once the court approves this final account, the executor can distribute whatever is left in the closing reserve, and finish his or her work.
Some of these steps can be eliminated by avoiding probate through trusts. But whoever is left in charge still has to pay all debts, file tax returns, and distribute the property to the rightful heirs. You can make it easier for your heirs by keeping good records of your assets and liabilities.
For more information on Estate Administration and the duties of an executor, click here.
We are dedicated to your success, so contact us today. Speak with one of our knowledgeable Long Island probate estate administration, will and estate tax planning, credit shelter trust estate planning, living trust estate administration and or litigation attorneys today from wherever you are in New York in Nassau and Suffolk, Brooklyn, Kings and Queens Counties, on Long Island and all New York City boroughs including Bronx, Westchester, Richmond County, and Manhattan.
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Get Help With Your Estate Administration Now be prepared for your loved ones with the proper estate administration plan. Avoid costly mistakes with probate estate administration and state estate tax and federal estate tax by speaking with an attorney from the law offices of Rubinstein, Zeh and Associates.
You should know you have certain legal rights and must be very selective of the lawyer or law firm that you chose to represent you with the probate of the estate.
Have an attorney council you on the right decision for you and your family.