Answers To Your Probate And Estate Administration Questions
In the simplest terms, estate administration is managing the distribution of financial assets and the personal belongings of someone who has passed away. Most estates are set up with a will and/or some type of trust. The process of administering an estate varies depending on the estate’s size and complexity.
Administering probate is more strait forward. Probate in the New York court system follows a well-defined set of tasks. Those tasks include identifying and contacting heirs, listing assets and debts, identifying creditors, getting appraisals for any property that must be sold, filing tax returns, dealing with any challenges to the distribution of assets and finally closing the estate and distributing assets to the heirs.
That is a rudimentary overview of what’s involved in probate and estate administration. Below are more specific questions we are frequently asked.
Are all wills required to go through probate in New York?
If the decedent (the person who died) had less than $30,000 in personal property, then a small estate or voluntary administration proceeding can be filed. If the decedent had $30,000 or more in personal property at the time of death, probate is required.
How long does it take to complete probate in New York?
Assuming there are no mitigating circumstances, probate where estate tax is not a factor can be completed in eight to nine months. If there are objections to the will or the designated executor is challenged, that time frame can stretch out for years.
If the estate is large enough that an estate tax is levied, the process usually takes between 18 months and three years depending on the complexity of the estate.
Does New York require me to hire a probate attorney?
No. However, there are a number of advantages to hiring a probate attorney. The two biggest advantages are that we have years of experience dealing with the intricacies of probate law and that having an attorney helps prevent family conflict. We can also help prevent lawsuits and additional claims against the estate, make sure that all documents are filed properly and that all debts are paid.
If there is no will or the will does not name an executor, how is an administrator chosen?
The court chooses an administrator based on next of kin as follows:
- Widowed spouse
- Parents of the deceased
- Brothers and sisters of the deceased
If there are no living family members in any of these categories, more distant relatives are chosen. If you oppose the appointee or an administer is chosen from more than one relative of the same standing, it is possible to petition the court for a change of administrator.
What are the responsibilities of the executor of the will?
It is the responsibility of the executor to see that the terms of the will are carried out. Specific responsibilities include:
- Initiate and manage the probate process
- Provide information to the heirs
- Create a list of the deceased’s assets
- Collect debts owed to the deceased’s estate
- Pay debts owed by the estate
- Distribute assets to the will’s beneficiaries
- Close the estate after all assets are distributed
Is it necessary to hire an attorney to administer an estate?
The state of New York does not require that you hire a lawyer to administer a will, but administering a will is a very challenging task for the average person. Hiring a law firm with experience in estate planning and administration helps avoid costly mistakes that can cause rifts in the family and potentially drag out the process for years.