If someone you love or know recently passed away, you may have questions about handling their estate. The process of settling a deceased person’s affairs is called estate administration, and each state has its own set of rules and procedures. In this blog, we help you gain a better understanding of what it means to administer an estate.
At the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., we have over 15 years of experience helping families administer estates in Long Island and the New York City area. Reach out to us today, and we will be glad to answer your questions.
What Does It Mean to Administer an Estate?
Administering an estate is a series of tasks that you must complete to wind up the affairs of someone who passed away (the decedent). It is part of a legal proceeding called probate or administration, depending on if the decedent has a will. In New York, you file a petition for probate if a decedent dies with a will. On the other hand, if the decedent did not have a will, then the process is called an administration proceeding.
Administering an estate involves the following tasks:
- Filing a petition for probate or administration proceeding;
- Attending a hearing in the Surrogate’s Court;
- Proving the validity of a will, if one exists;
- Appointing an executor or administrator to handle the estate;
- Collecting and valuing the decedent’s assets;
- Notifying creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries of the decedent’s death;
- Paying off the decedent’s debts and tax obligations; and
- Distributing remaining assets to legal heirs and beneficiaries.
Estate administration can be a lengthy and costly process full of paperwork and deadlines. However, not all estates must go through probate. Only estates with “probate assets” (assets solely in the name of the decedent) need to be administered. An experienced estate administration attorney can guide you through the process and reduce the time and money it takes to close the estate.
What Is the Administrator of an Estate?
An administrator is a person responsible for completing the tasks necessary to settle the estate. They act on behalf of the estate, and some administrators get compensated for their work.
What Is the Difference Between an Administrator and an Executor?
An executor and administrator have the same roles and responsibilities. The difference is in how they are appointed. An executor is named in the decedent’s will. If the decedent does not have a will, the probate court will appoint an administrator. Typically, the appointed administrator is one of the decedent’s close family members.
What Are the Common Duties of the Administrator of an Estate?
An administrator handles the administrative tasks necessary to settle an estate. Here are some common duties of the administrator of an estate.
Notify Interested Parties
Once someone files a petition to open the estate, beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors must be notified of the proceeding. It is the administrator’s responsibility to locate all known next of kin. This notice gives the interested parties an opportunity to file a claim against the estate. For example, a family member may argue that the decedent’s will is invalid and sue the estate.
Identify and Value the Decedent’s Assets
The administrator must identify all of the decedent’s assets (e.g., bank accounts, real property, stocks, etc.) and debts (e.g., credit card bills, medical bills, etc.) and provide a list to the Surrogate’s Court.
Pay Outstanding Debts
Creditors take priority over heirs and beneficiaries when distributing assets from the estate. Any debts, such as car payments, must be paid before anyone gets an inheritance.
File Necessary Tax Returns
As the saying goes, there are two things in life no one can avoid: death and taxes. The administrator is responsible for filing the decedent’s final income tax return and estate and gift tax returns, if applicable.
Distribute Remaining Assets to the Heirs and Beneficiaries
After all debts are settled, any remaining property in the estate gets distributed to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries. If the decedent had a will, the property is distributed as per the terms of the will. If the decedent did not have a will, the administrator would distribute the property according to the state rules of intestate succession.
How Long Does It Take to Administer an Estate?
No two estates are the same, so the time it takes to administer an estate varies. It can range anywhere from months to years, depending on the complexity of the estate and the Surrogate Court’s current caseload. Different factors impact the length of the administration process, such as estates with tax implications, hard-to-value assets, and estate litigation.
Is It Expensive to Administer an Estate?
The cost of administering an estate depends on how complex the estate is. Some costs are unavoidable, such as court filing fees and notification fees. However, if the estate is sued or has complicated tax obligations, the costs will be higher. In these situations, the administrator or executor will likely hire an accountant or a lawyer. The estate pays all of the administration costs.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Administering an estate takes a great deal of time and effort. A seasoned attorney can help you avoid costly mistakes, such as missing filing deadlines or submitting incomplete paperwork. Some of the services we provide at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. include:
- Filing petitions and inventories,
- Communicating with the Surrogate’s Court,
- Inventorying estate assets,
- Notifying interested parties, and
- Completing estate tax returns.
If a dispute arises and someone sues the estate, we can also represent you in this matter.
Contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. for Your Estate Administration Needs
Administering an estate can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. Founder and principal attorney Andrew Lamkin can help you complete all the steps necessary to settle your loved one’s estate. He provides legal services to clients in New York City, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Call or go online to schedule a free consultation with Mr. Lamkin at his office or in your home.