The skilled estate planning attorneys at Lacy Katzen are experienced in helping clients through the estate administration process. No matter how simple or complex your estate plan is, at Lacy Katzen, our Rochester estate administration lawyers make it our mission to carry out your estate plan in a sensitive and respectful manner—all the while keeping in mind that you worked a lifetime to build a legacy to leave behind when you are gone. Contact an estate administration lawyer from our firm today.
Estate Administration Lawyer | Guiding You Through the Process
After a loved one has passed away many things need to be done such as gathering assets, paying bills, filing taxes, accounting to beneficiaries, and the distribution of assets. The process of managing a deceased person’s affairs after death is called estate administration. Our estate administration attorneys will build relationships with those whom you select as executor(s) of your Will, Trustee(s) of your Trust, and the others you place your trust in to successfully complete the administration of your estate and personal affairs. Our estate administration lawyers will represent executors, trustees, and administrators through the process, so contact us today.
Estate Administration in New York
In New York State, the estate administration process involves several sequential steps to ensure that a deceased person’s assets are collected, managed, and distributed according to their last Will and Testament or, if there’s no Will, according to New York’s intestacy laws. Here’s a step-by-step overview of estate administration in New York:
Locate the Will: The first step is to locate the deceased person’s last Will and Testament if one exists. This document provides instruction on how the decedent wanted their assets distributed.
Petition for Probate or Administration: If a Will exists, it must be probated. This involves filing a petition with the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the deceased lived. If there’s no Will, a petition for administration must be filed.
Appoint an Executor or Administrator: The court will appoint an executor (if named in the Will) or an administrator (if there’s no Will) to manage the estate. This individual is responsible for ensuring that the estate is administered properly.
Gather and Inventory Assets: The executor or administrator will then identify, gather, and inventory all the deceased’s assets. This may involve accessing bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and more.
Notify Creditors and Pay Debts: Once appointed, the Executor should notify any credit card or mortgage lenders of the death. The estate must remain open at least seven months to provide an opportunity for any known (or unknown) creditors to file a claim. The estate’s legitimate debts are then paid using its assets.
File Necessary Tax Returns: Both federal and state estate tax returns may be required, depending on the size of the estate. Additionally, final personal income tax returns for the deceased should be filed, and in some cases, one or more income tax returns for the estate (fiduciary returns) will need to be filed.
Distribute Remaining Assets: After all debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets are distributed according to the Will or New York’s intestacy laws (if there is no Will).
Close the Estate: Finally, after all tasks are completed, the executor or administrator will file a final accounting with the court and request that the estate be closed.
The estate administration process in New York can be complex and is best navigated with the assistance of knowledgeable legal professionals, such as the attorneys at Lacy Katzen.
Contact Lacy Katzen LLP
If you or a loved one are navigating the estate administration process, don’t hesitate to reach out for skilled guidance. At Lacy Katzen LLP, our seasoned attorneys stand ready to provide comprehensive support. Secure your legacy and safeguard your loved ones’ future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and ensure your estate is handled with the utmost care and professionalism.
Estate administration is the process of collecting and transferring assets from a decedent to the decedent’s beneficiaries. The process may involve a probate proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court to appoint Executors, Trustees and Guardians named in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, working with beneficiaries to transfer and retitle non-probate assets, such as retirement plans, annuities and life insurance, and preparing and filing federal and state estate tax returns, along with the decedent’s final income tax return and fiduciary income tax returns for the estate.
Probate is a court proceeding where a decedent’s Will is presented to a judge to prove its validity and authorize the appointment of Executors, Trustees and Guardians named in a decedent’s Will. In New York State, the Surrogate’s Court oversees probate matters in each county.
Although a person may be named in a Will as an Executor, that proposed Executor does not have the authority to administer the decedent’s estate until they are officially appointed by the Surrogate’s Court after probate of the Will. This appointment is called granting “Letters Testamentary” to the Executor. Those Letters Testamentary are proof to financial institutions and others that the Executor has the Surrogate’s Court approval to act on behalf of the estate.
Once an Executor is appointed, the Executor can begin to collect the decedent’s assets, open up accounts in the name of the estate, sell assets such as real estate and marketable securities to provide the estate with liquid funds, and pay expenses, and settle any of the decedent’s debts.
In addition to collecting assets and paying debts of the decedent, an Executor may need to file an estate tax return for the estate, file a final personal income tax return for the decedent and a fiduciary income tax return for income received by the estate. Prior to closing the estate and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries, an Executor may need to prepare an accounting detailing the assets collected, expenses paid and proposed distribution to each beneficiary.
New York State law allows Executors to receive payment in the form of a commission, which is determined as a percentage of the decedent’s probate estate. The commission rate ranges between 5% and 2%, decreasing as the size of the probate estate increases.
The probate estate includes any assets owned individually by the decedent at death that do not name a beneficiary, such as bank accounts, taxable investment accounts, real estate, personal property such as cars and jewelry. Assets such as retirement plans (401(k), IRA, 403(b)), life insurance and annuities often pass directly to beneficiaries designated by the decedent. In some cases, if no beneficiary is named, these assets may be included in the probate estate. Other assets may be jointly owned, in which case the asset will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner. Transfer on death designations allow a decedent to direct that an asset pass outside of the probate estate, directly to named beneficiary(ies).
New York State law requires that certain family members (called “distributees”), beneficiaries and fiduciaries named in the Will receive notification of a probate proceeding, so that they have an opportunity to appear in the Surrogate’s Court and present any objections to the Will or the appointment of the Executor.
A person or entity must having standing, or a financial interest in the outcome, to be able to contest a Will. For example, a child disinherited by a parent should have standing the challenge the parent’s Will. Even if someone has standing to contest the Will, the person must prove to the Surrogate’s Court that the Will was invalid in order to change the distribution provisions or prevent the appointment of the Executor.
Each estate is unique, the amount of time to administer an estate depends upon whether there are objections to the Will or appointment of the Executor, the time necessary to locate and notify beneficiaries and other interested parties, whether sufficient assets are available to pay debts or if it is necessary to negotiate with creditors, and if an estate tax return is necessary, when the estate receives a closing letter indicating no additional estate tax is due.