Are you an executor, trustee or beneficiary of an estate? Or did your family member pass away without having a will or any estate documents in place? Whatever the circumstance, it is wise to seek legal counsel to settle an estate or to advocate for your rights in the distribution of assets.

At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, our estate administration attorneys offer a compassionate guide for probate and estate administration in Manhattan and the greater New York City Region including Long Island. We work with you to determine all assets and their distribution while handling the potential interpersonal conflicts that often arise among family members. Our track record of efficient estate settlement has saved many families valuable time and costs – all while reducing the emotional toll.

What is Probate and Estate Administration?

Probate involves proving the Will “to the satisfaction of the Court to be the valid Last Will and Testament of the decedent.” A will is not a will until the court – the Surrogate’s Court in New York – has blessed it.

At that point, the executor named in the will is “appointed” and administers the estate of the person who died (aka “decedent”) in accordance with the terms of the will.  If there is no will, the decedent is said to have died “intestate” (no will.) His or her estate is then managed by an “administrator” appointed by the court; the administrator being the person appointed to have priority to act.

Once approved, the executor or administrator is responsible for filing the decedent’s most recently executed will with the Surrogate’s Court. An executor’s duties include collecting and managing assets, paying debts and taxes, and eventually distributing those assets to heirs and beneficiaries.

Probate can be avoided if the decedent placed assets into a revocable trust and named heirs and beneficiaries.

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Adult children settling an estate

How Long Does Estate Administration Take?

The time it takes for estate administration depends on various factors. Small estates generally take less time to settle than larger and more complicated estates. However, parties who contest the Will may substantially increase the time involved.

In addition, the presence of assets such as businesses or multiple real estate properties can also increase the length of time. Overall, expect the probate process in New York to take between nine to eighteen months.

Duties of an Estate Administrator

Once you receive the Letters Testamentary from the court formally naming you as the estate’s executor, you can begin administering the estate.

The duties of an estate administrator include the following:

  • Obtaining a federal tax identification number for the estate: A tax ID number is necessary to open an estate bank account.
  • Collecting, identifying, and valuing the deceased’s property: All assets titled solely in the deceased’s name are part of the estate. That may include real estate, stocks, bonds, brokerage and bank accounts, motor vehicles, art, antiques, and jewelry. The executor must prepare an estate inventory and have specific items appraised.
  • Notifying creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries: In New York, creditors have up to seven months after the decedent’s death to file a claim with the estate. Unlike many states, a New York executor does not have to track down creditors. The executor must notify heirs or beneficiaries named in the Will, and an administrator must inform the next of kin in cases of intestacy.
  • Paying the decedent’s debts: The executor is charged with paying off all of the decedent’s debts from estate assets. They must first determine their total amount and validity and whether the estate has the resources to pay them. In addition to medical and funeral expenses, such debts may include credit card bills and personal loans.
  • Managing assets: It is the executor’s duty to manage estate assets. They have the right to sell assets to meet the estate’s needs, as well as manage assets prudently for the benefit of heirs and beneficiaries. That management may include investing, collecting rent, or running a business based on the individual estate.
  • Paying all taxes due by strict deadlines: Such taxes may include any federal or state income taxes, the decedent’s final income taxes, and taxes due on income from the estate during the administration period.
  • Distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries: Once the debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets are distributed to heirs and beneficiaries per the Will’s terms.
  • Closing the estate: After the distribution of assets, the executor must prepare an accounting for the court regarding all monies earned, spent, and distributed during estate administration. Once the court approves the accounting, the estate is closed.

Remember that if estate assets are distributed to anyone other than the decedent’s creditors or beneficiaries, the executor can be held personally liable, another reason to contact a New York estate administration lawyer for help.

What Our Clients Are Saying

Aaron Connor, Beth Stasiak, and Stacey Davis were an absolute pleasure to deal with through what would otherwise have been a difficult experience after the loss of first my maternal uncle and then my mom. They were extremely well organized, professional, thoughtful, responsive, good-humored and consistently looked out for our best interests. Would happily recommend them to anyone in need of elder law services.

— Lisa D.

Lou Pierro came up with a very creative way to protect my mother’s estate. He freely gave of his time and was clear and caring. My mother died before we needed to implement his plan. Afterwards, the New York Department of Health found my mother’s former residence in violation of two codes. Although Lou would not benefit from helping us, he directed us to attorneys who could.

— David

How Does Hiring a NYC Probate Lawyer Benefit You?

Aside from cutting down on family infighting and other domestic squabbles, you may need to hire a probate lawyer as a means of reducing your stress levels. The death of a loved one is already emotionally draining, so there’s no need to exacerbate it.

Our firm will handle probate and any other estate planning matters with the utmost tact and professionalism, including assisting with the sale of real estate owned by the deceased, drafting and filing all petitions, evaluating the date of death value, finding and securing assets of the deceased, tax elections and filings, collecting any life insurance proceeds of the deceased, defending against any creditor claims in the estate, assisting with the sale of personal property, and ensuring that all interested parties are included in probate papers, among other services.

Contact Pierro, Connor & Strauss

You have enough on your mind already following the loss of a loved one. A skilled New York City estate administration and probate attorney will provide a broad range of services when settling an estate in New York.

The experienced New York City estate planning attorneys at Pierro, Connor & Strauss, LLC offer estate administration services for executors and administrators, trustees and beneficiaries. If you have questions or concerns, schedule a consultation today.

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Life Happens…..Are You Prepared?

Contact us today for a FREE consultation and we’ll be happy to help take the worry out of tomorrow so you can live today.