New York Estate Administration
If you have lost a spouse or family member, you know how heartbreaking this experience can be. While you are still reeling from your loss, you may be called upon to handle your loved one’s estate. Most people are fairly unfamiliar with this process until they are forced to handle it within their own family. Estate administration is legal process when the assets of the decedent are gathered up and accounted for, and eventually distributed to the heirs of the estate. The New York Surrogate’s Court has jurisdiction over probate and estate administration matters. In addition, during estate administration, executor or administrator must pay debts of the estate. This process, depending on the situation, can be complicated, costly, and lengthy. If you were appointed to serve as the executor or administrator over a loved one's estate, or if you are an interested party in an estate administration matter, it is important that you work with an experienced New York estate administration lawyer at the Law Office of who can help ensure that the process is completed in the most efficient manner so that the assets of the estate can be distributed as quickly as possible.Probate
The administration process is initiated when a petition is submitted to the Surrogate’s Court. If the decedent left a will, the executor named in the will files the will with the court along with a petition asking the court to admit the will to probate and issue him (or her) letters testamentary. The court will verify that the will is valid, and issue letters testamentary to the executor. Letters testamentary is a kind of court order that officially appoints the executor, giving him legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. In some instances, probate will be delayed due to a challenge to the validity of the will. Anyone who has an interest in the will such as beneficiaries and heirs have the right to challenge the will by filing an objection. The Surrogate’s Court will then consider the objection. If the Surrogate agrees with the objectant, the will will be invalidated. As an experienced New York estate administration lawyer will explain, unless there is a prior valid will, the court will proceed as if the decedent died intestate. If a decedent died intestate, there is no will to submit to probate. Instead, someone with an interest in the estate, such as a statutory heir will submit a petition with the Surrogate’s Court to open the estate and for letters of administration.Administration process
The process of settling a decedent’s estate is generally called probate or probate administration if the decedent was testate and estate administration if the decedent died intestate. Regardless of whether or not a will is involved, the steps to administer a decedent’s estate are very similar. The biggest difference is that the distribution of assets of a testate estate is based on the decedents will, while distribution of assets of an intestate estate is based on New York’s intestacy rules as described in the Estates, Powers & Trust Law. The general steps in the administration process are as follows:
- Take control of probate assets. The executor (or estate administrator) must determine the assets that are part of the decedent’s probate estate and take control of them. Estate assets may include real estate such as the decedent’s house, co-op, brownstone, or condo. It also may include financial assets such as savings accounts, checking accounts, or brokerage accounts. Personal property such as the decedent’s vehicles, clothing, jewelry, appliances, accessories, home furnishings, collectibles, and artwork would also be a part of the decedent’s probate estate.
As an experienced estate administration lawyer in New York will explain, not all property owned by the decedent is probate property subject to the court supervised estate administration process. Examples of property that is not probate property includes property that has a beneficiary such as 401(k) plans, IRAs, and other retirement accounts. Life insurance policies are not probate property, not are assets in a living trust. Similarly, real estate that is co-owned with others as joint tenants with survivorship rights is not probate property and will automatically go to the surviving owners.
- Pay estate debts. Estate administration is not only about distributing estate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs. It is about taking care of any outstanding business related to the decedent’s estate. This will include making sure that any debt owed by the decedent or expenses related to the administration of the estate are paid. This part of the administration includes making sure that notice requirements are followed so that all creditors know that that the decedent’s estate is being administered. Assets cannot be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs until all valid, timely filed debts have been paid. If there are not sufficient assets in the estate to pay all debt and expenses, the executor must follow statutory priority rules to determine which debt gets paid and which does not. In addition, the executor must pay outstanding federal and local taxes owed by the decedent or by the estate.
- Distributing estate assets. After estate debts have been paid, with the approval of the Surrogate’ Court, the executor or estate administrator must distribute the assets that remain in the estate after debts and expenses are paid. If the decedent left a will, the executor will distribute the assets based on the terms of he will. If the decedent did not leave a will, the estate administrator will distribute the assets based on New York’s intestate succession rules.
Estate administration is sometimes routine, but can also become quite complicated depending on the size of the estate, types of property, and any unexpected events that develop in the process such as estate litigation. An experienced estate administration attorney serving New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates will help you through the administration process so that it is completed as required by New York law and as quickly as possible under the circumstances. We have years of experience working closely with beneficiaries, heirs, estate administrators, and executors on complex probate and estate administration matters. We are here to help. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and Nassau County.