Once probate is granted, that is when an executor’s primary duties begin. Now it is time for the executor to start gathering assets, paying off any debts, and filing papers with the court to administer the estate and eventually close it out.
The entire process begins with the executor requesting probate from the court, which usually requires a filing alongside the will and death certificate.
Steps an Executor Must Take after Probate Is Granted
This process can take time – sometimes a few months – depending on how many assets the deceased has and any debts. However, once the probate proceeding is granted, an executor is required to start immediately and work in a reasonable amount of time. Any executor that fails to perform their duties in a reasonable amount of time could be held accountable by the presiding judge.
Locating All Assets
The first step after probate is granted is to locate all assets. Usually, assets are listed in the deceased’s will, but if that individual did not regularly update their will or keep a list of assets, the job can become tedious. They will need to line up anything considered an asset, including:
- All bank accounts, retirement funds, and investment accounts.
- All real estate, whether personal or commercial, owned by the deceased.
- All property, including furniture, jewelry, and other items of value.
- All other items owned by the deceased.
Once probate is granted, the executor will have access to these accounts, which allows them to transfer the accounts into the estate’s name and control funds to pay debts. In some cases, the executor may have to contact multiple financial institutions where the deceased held their money and transfer those into the estate’s name, which can take a few weeks.
Determining the Value of Those Assets
After all the assets are found, the executor must then have the assets evaluated by an appraiser. The appraiser will create a death value, meaning those assets’ value on the deceased’s date of death. The executor will be required to file that report to the court along with a full list of assets.
Assembling and Paying Debts
Now that all assets are accounted for, the executor must locate all debts. This often includes running a notice in the newspaper about the deceased so that creditors can make claims against the estate, paying any outstanding medical bills, handling any outstanding mortgages or loans, and also paying funeral or burial expenses that family members might have paid for initially.
The executor has the power to sell any assets they need to pay off debts, including real estate and other tangible property if there are not enough funds in bank or investment accounts to pay those debts.
The executor does have the power to reject claims against the estate, especially if they believe they are not valid. In this case, the creditor would then have to petition the court, and the probate judge can decide if the creditor has standing.
Filing the Final Tax Return
The executor must file and pay the last tax return for the estate using what is left after paying down debts. Typically, this must be done within 9 months of the date of death.
Distributing any Remaining Assets
Once all debts and taxes are paid, the estate is ready for distribution. The executor must seek the court’s permission to distribute assets, and those assets will go to the names listed in the will. The court only grants permission to distribute after they receive proof that all financial transactions have been completed, including the assets located, evaluated, and all debts and taxes paid.
In some instances, if there are deeds that need to be transferred, this will be done during the distribution process too. For example, transferring the deed of the home from the deceased’s name into the beneficiary’s name.
Should You Hire an Attorney for the Probate Process?
As an executor, you have a big job to do – and most likely, you already have a real day job. Taking on the executor’s role is time-consuming, and you are not able to work at your own pace. Instead, the law and court dictate how quickly you move, which means making personal sacrifices to settle an estate. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to balance the role of executor alongside your personal life.
That is why it may be best to hire a planning attorney to assist you with your duties. An attorney knows the timeline dictated by law, but also knows the procedure of closing out an estate. They can help expedite the process, handle the paperwork, and even help locate assets so that you have some of those tasks taken off your plate. More importantly, they serve as an added peace of mind, because you have someone there familiar with New York estate laws making sure you do everything you are required to do by law.
Consult with a Local Estate Attorney Today
If you are an executor of an estate, you can hire an attorney to assist you with your role. To explore your options, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. Schedule a free case evaluation with our team, and we can even meet over video chat if you are not comfortable meeting in person. Call our office today or contact us online with your questions about how we can help with the probate process.