Understanding Estate Administration and Probate
All estates in New York where there is a will must go through a legal process known as probate. The main purpose of probate is to transfer assets out of the deceased person’s name into the name of the living. The process encompasses a variety of financial activities including, ensuring the decedent’s creditors are paid through estate settlement and that any remaining assets go to the designated beneficiaries. The individual or institution that manages the estate through this process is known as an estate administrator or an estate executor.
Estate Executor vs Estate Administrator
An executor is the person responsible for administering an estate and making sure the decedent’s final wishes, as stated in the Will, are carried out. Typically, the deceased will have designated an executor in their Will to manage the estate’s administration and ensure their final wishes are carried out. In this case, the court determines if the Will is valid, and if so, officially appoints the executor. Once officially appointed, the executor can begin carrying out their duties.
If the deceased did not leave a Will, dying intestate, does not name an executor in their Will, or a named executor declines the appointment, the court will choose an administrator of estate. The administrator must then ensure the estate is settled according to New York intestacy laws.
Both the Executor and the Administrator are responsible for safeguarding the decedent’s assets until all debts and taxes have been paid. They must then make sure the remainder is distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
The Responsibilities of an Executor or Administrator May Include:
- Appearing in court, as required, on behalf of the estate.
- Filing the necessary court papers to start the probate process.
- Obtaining a copy of the latest will and understanding the deceased’s instructions.
- Locating and taking inventory of all valuables, personal property, and other assets.
- Handling details like notifying banks and government agencies of your death and filing your final income tax returns.
- Paying valid claims against the estate
- Distribute assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
The administration process can be tedious, due to numerous statutes and regulations. There are many duties that an Executor or Administrator must carry out including filing all necessary paperwork in the correct order and by specific deadlines. If you have been appointed as an Executor or Administrator, an attorney who specializes in estate administration can be retained to provide guidance. It is generally advisable to hire an attorney for larger estates, however, smaller estates can also benefit from an administration attorney who has the experience required to address issues that may arise during the administration process, such as valuing assets and handling the necessary court filings. You should also consult an experienced estate administration attorney is someone is contesting the Will, a business or commercial real estate is involved, or when the estate does not have enough money for debts and taxes.
Get Legal Guidance
Parisi, Coan, and Saccocio, PLLC has over 100 years combined experience in estate planning, administration of client’s wishes after passing, and representing litigants in cases of disputed estate matters. If you have been appointed as the Executor or the Administrator of an estate, please contact us for a free consultation at (914) 228-7448.