Estate Probate & Administration
Losing a loved one is very difficult and is certainly hard enough without adding the complexity of the legalities of settling an estate. Settling an estate can be complicated and daunting and the Surrogates Court can be difficult to navigate alone. Comprehensive estate administration services are essential. Let us assist you handle the legal aspects of your loved one’s estate to ensure the smooth transition of their wealth and assets.
First, there is a difference between probate and estate administration. If your loved one left a will, the will must be probated. Probate is the legal process through which the decedent’s estate is properly distributed to the designated beneficiaries pursuant to the terms of the will. The person whose responsibility it is to probate the will is called the Executor. That person is named in the will.
If however, someone passed away without a will, the heirs of the estate will be dictated by the law of intestacy rather than a will. The person whose responsibility it is to administer the estate in that case is called the Administrator. Regardless of whether you are acting as an Executor or an Administrator, you are acting in a fiduciary capacity and owe the highest legal duty to protect the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries and heirs. This is a serious responsibility and we recommend that you obtain the assistance of competent counsel to assist you in meeting these responsibilities.
Settling an estate is done in the county where the decedent lived or owned property. Estate settlement comprises three basic responsibilities that must be performed by an Executor or Administrator.
These responsibilities include (i) collecting or marshaling estate assets, (ii) paying debts, expenses and taxes; and, (iii) making a distribution of the net estate to the proper beneficiaries. These are serious responsibilities and are harder to accomplish than they sound. Estate settlement begins with filing a petition with the probate court to either admit the will to probate and appoint the executor, or if there is no will, to appoint an administrator of the estate. Notice of the filing of the petition must be provided to all the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs.
After appointment by the court, the Executor or Administrator must give notice to all the known creditors of the estate and take an inventory of the assets. All expenses of the decedent, including funeral expenses, taxes and other debts must be paid out of the estate. The Executor or Administrator must then transfer legal title of the assets of the estate to the proper beneficiaries or heirs.
Please let our experienced attorneys assist you in meeting your fiduciary obligations. For a free consultation please contact us.