Estates in New York
All estates in New York where there is a will must go through a legal process known as probate. After the will is probated (which means proved as a valid will by the court) the administration of the deceased’s estate occurs. This is the process used by the probate court to ensure the deceased person’s creditors are paid through estate settlement and that any remaining assets go to the deceased’s beneficiaries. The estate executor is responsible for managing the estate’s probate and settlement process. The probate and estate settlement process requires certain paperwork, deadlines, responsibilities, and can be complicated.
Here are some basic guidelines to follow when acting as executor of an estate:
Educate Yourself About the Probate Process
Probate is the administration of assets passing under wills. Navigating the court system is a complicated job and educating yourself about the probate process will help you decide if you should hire an attorney, or if you can represent the estate yourself
Begin the Probate Process in A Timely Matter
Estate and trust administration involves the arranging of someone’s assets, paying the appropriate expenses and creditors, preparing, and filing all applicable tax filings, and making proper distributions to the beneficiaries. Administering an estate in a timely matter can help avoid taxes adding up, and creditors and heirs becoming impatient.
Locate and Submit the Deceased’s Last Will and Testament
Locating the Will of the deceased is one of the most important things to do in administering an estate. The probate process will begin when the appropriate court is notified of the death, and an original Will is submitted.
Protect the Assets of the Estate
While you may not sell any estate assets, if you are the Executor, you need to start protecting them immediately. Protecting assets of the estate can include many things such as securing residences.
Keep Accurate Accounting Records
Accounting is a report prepared by a fiduciary showing the assets, liabilities, debts, expenses, and distributions coming in and out of the fiduciary’s hands during a specific period. Contesting an accounting commonly occurs over why accounting has not been provided, actions taken or not taken by the fiduciary as shown on the accounting, and whether the fiduciary has provided enough information on the accounting.
Identify All the Heirs of the Estate
If there is no will (intestate), then the person responsible for the estate is called an Administrator. The Administrator must try to determine who the legal heirs to the estate are and notify them of the estate administration.
Communicate Thoroughly and Often with Heirs
When probate begins it is important that all the heirs to the estate have been notified. Fiduciaries manage the assets or property of another person and must always act in the best interest of the estate and in agreement with any trust. A fiduciary duty breach is not acting in the best interest of another party. Executors, Trustees, and Powers of Attorney must act honorably and in accordance with the law. Unfortunately, sometimes there may be questions about whether a fiduciary has acted inappropriately. A beneficiary or other interested party can bring an action against a fiduciary if there is such a question.
Consider Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney – CPA
Estate administration is a time-consuming process requiring specific financial and legal knowledge, the ability to file the correct legal paperwork, and the ability to adhere to strict deadlines. Estate and trust administration can also often require a high level of analysis and a detail-oriented focus on accounting, tax laws, and asset valuations.
An attorney/CPA can usually conduct an analysis of tax returns faster than most other attorneys. While estate planning attorneys must be familiar with the basics of the tax implications of each estate planning option, an attorney who is also a CPA has more in-depth knowledge of tax laws and will therefore be able to assist with more complex estates. Estate and gift tax laws also change frequently, creating potential pitfalls for clients, but an attorney who is also a CPA may be more familiar with these laws and better able to assist in getting the maximum tax savings for your estate.
An experienced estate planning attorney – CPA can help you avoid costly mistakes and assist with a variety of estate legal matters including:
- Preparation of Petition for Probate
- Appointment of Executor
- Preparation of Petition for Letters of Administration
- Appointment of Administrator
- Marshalling Estate Assets
- Preparation of Petition to Settle the Account of an Executor or Trustee
- Preparation of Petitions by An Executor to Settle Personal Injury and/or Wrongful Death Actions on Behalf of An Estate.
- Estate Tax Return Preparation
- Legal Advice about Estate and Gift Tax Audits
If you have further questions or would like to schedule a consultation with our Attorney/CPA, Gerard Parisi, Esq., please reach out to our office at (914) 228-7448