The Basics of Estate Administration

Long Island Estate Planning Attorney - Lamkin Elder LawWhen a person dies owning specific assets in their name alone, the estate must then be opened by a representative to handle those assets and settle all of the decedent’s affairs. The estate is opened in the courts with a petition alongside a death certificate. An attorney should always draft such a petition and ensure matters are done properly.

If the decedent dies testate, the original will must be then filed alongside that petition. This procedure is referred to as the “probate” procedure. As long as the will is notarized, it will be considered self-proving. If not, then two witness signatures must also be present on the will in order to make it valid. After the will has been probated, the letters of testamentary will be issued to the estate’s personal representative – also referred to as the executor.

What if the Decedent Passes Without a Will?

Dying without a will, or intestate, requires the personal representative to receive letters of administration. These letters will only be granted to specific individuals in a prioritized order, which includes:

  1. Residuary legatees
  2. Surviving spouses
  3. Intestate heirs (those with the closest relation get first preference)
  4. Creditors
  5. Other fit individuals

The Duties of the Personal Representative

The estate’s personal representative has many roles, and they are required to use the estate’s assets to pay all debts and obligations, estate taxes, inheritance taxes and to communicate with the beneficiaries of the estate. Just some of the duties that they will be required to fulfill include:

  • Safeguarding and Collecting the Estate’s Assets – They must collect and safeguard assets from theft, vandalism, and destruction. That may mean changing the locks on the decedent’s home, renting a safety deposit box for jewelry and small items, or locking items into a storage unit.
  • Advertising – A personal representative is also required to advertise in a legal newspaper with general circulation. The advertisement must include the decedent’s name, address of the representative and the contact information of the estate attorney.
  • Notification – Executors must then notify all beneficiaries about the death of the decedent within several months of receiving the grant letters. A copy of the will can be included if the death occurred in testate.
  • Filing Inventory – The executor will create an inventory of the estate’s assets not only for tax purposes, but for purpose of distribution later.
  • Status – An executor must keep the state comprised of their actions, including any tax returns and applicable taxes due.
  • Payments – The executor must then also pay all expenses, taxes and other creditor debts from the estate’s assets. This may require selling or liquidating particular assets in order to pay these obligations. In addition, the executor must pay all court filing fees and costs of administration as well as any attorney’s fees applicable to the estate.

Only after everything is completed, and often several months to a year after the decedent has passed, is the estate officially closed and assets are distributed.

Navigate the Complexities of Estate Administration – Speak to an Attorney

Administering an estate is a highly complex process that often requires the assistance of an attorney. Contact attorney Andrew M. Lamkin today regarding your estate plan or for assisting with estate administration. Call 516-605-0625 for a free consultation or contact us online with your questions.

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