Estate Administration & Probate
Navigating estate administration and probate
When a person dies and owns assets solely in his/her/their own name, it’s generally necessary to open a formal proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court. The formal court proceeding is called “probate” or “estate administration.” This is the legal process used to pass the assets on to others. If the decedent left a will, the estate is considered to be a recipients named in this will are called beneficiaries and the estate is considered to be a “testate estate.” If the decedent did not leave a will, the recipients of this person’s assets are the “heirs at law.” This is known as “intestate administration.”
In either case, the named executor or the administrator must commence a proceeding in Surrogate’s Court that notifies the interested parties of the person’s death. This Surrogate’s Court proceeding provides an opportunity for creditors to file claims against the estate and the heirs have the oppurtunity to be notified of the process. Needless to say, this can be a confusing process at a time when the person in charge of the estate is often in mourning over the loss of a loved one. The attorneys at Pfalzgraf Beinhauer assist families in the handling of the decedent’s estate.
We can help
Among other things, our job is to open the estate. This includes:
- Finding heirs and notifying them that a case will be opened in Surrogate’s Court. We inform them of their right to object to the appointment of the executor or administrator and to the admission of the will to probate.
- Appearing in court for the estate and responding to the questions raised by the executor and family members. Questions range from: “What am I getting?” to “When I am getting it?” and everything in between.
Assisting the executor
The executor’s job is to locate the assets and gather them for distribution to the beneficiaries of the estate. This can be a time consuming and tedious process for the executor. It is often very confusing and complicated. Our staff helps to sort through the assets and works closely with the executor to inventory the estate.
We determine the date of death values, develop a record of all of the transactions, and prepare an accounting for the beneficiaries to show them what was in the estate at the beginning and what happened from that point to the time of distribution of the assets.
It’s not uncommon to have to consult a multitude of outside professionals to properly close an estate. We’ll work with these professionals on your behalf, including:
- Account professionals – In some estates, tax returns have to be prepared and filed.
- Real estate attorneys – If a property has to be sold, we’ll coordinate the sale of any properties to make sure sales are closed.
- Brokers and investment advisors – If there are stocks and investment accounts that have to be liquidated, we’ll work closely with brokers and investment advisors to sell the stocks and bonds or transfer them directly to the heirs.
After all of the assets have been accounted for and all creditors paid, we prepare an accounting for all of the beneficiaries under the will or the heirs at law (if there is no will). After getting their consent, we prepare and file the documents to release the executor, distribute the assets, and close the estate.
Proper estate planning can help families avoid probate and a complex estate administration process. Our experienced estate planning attorneys are here to help. Learn more about our estate planning services.
Help is here
The estate administration process is a huge undertaking, and you don’t need to do it alone. Click here to learn how we brought peace of mind to Marie by helping her value and distribute her brother’s assets after he died unexpectedly.