At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, our experienced estate administration attorneys offer a compassionate guide through the settlement of the estate of your loved ones. We focus on working to determine assets and their distribution while handling the many interpersonal conflicts that often arise among family members. Our long track record of efficient estate management has saved many families valuable time and costs – all while reducing headaches.

Estate and Trust Administration falls into four basic categories:

  • Administration of Assets Passing Under Wills: If you are an executor or a beneficiary of a Will, we will help you determine the assets and debts of the estate, navigate your way through the court system and determine how to effectuate distribution of the estate.
  • Administration of Estates Without Wills: If you are eligible to serve as an administrator or to receive assets of an estate without a Will, we will help you navigate your way through the court system, identify the lawful beneficiaries and determine the distribution of assets must be distributed under state law.
  • Trust Administration: If you are a trustee or beneficiary of a trust, we will help you determine your rights and obligations under the terms of the trust and state law.
  • Tax Advice: Regardless of what form of administration is required, we will provide the necessary tax advice needed to best meet the estate’s or the trust’s objectives in an efficient manner.

If you are an Executor, Trustee or a beneficiary and you have questions regarding your rights and obligations under a Will, Trust or an estate, call us to schedule an appointment to get the advice and answers you need.

Types of Trust and Estate Administration Services

Losing a loved one is hard, but honoring the wishes of the decedent can bring closure and simplify the process of estate and trust administration. Whether you are a fiduciary or a beneficiary – and whether your loved one died with or without a will – our attorneys can assist you in navigating the administration process. Choosing an experienced attorney can reduce stress and help bring about a timely and satisfying resolution.

Estate administration involves what may seem like an overwhelming number of steps. At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, our estate administration attorneys are well-versed in the law and ready to respond to a variety of issues that can arise during the administration.

Services we offer include:

  • Probate the appointment of Executor and trustees and related services
  • Administration of estates where the decedent died without a Will, the appointment of Administrator and related services
  • Settlement of the Estate and Trust Accounts and related services
  • Settlement of wrongful death actions on behalf of an estate
  • Pre-mortem planning to minimize taxes, ease the estate administration process and fulfill the wishes of the decedent
  • Post mortem estate, inheritance and income tax planning
  • Federal Gift Tax Return preparation and related services
  • Federal Estate Tax Return preparation and related services
  • State Estate Tax Return preparation and related services
  • Legal advice and representation in connection with estate, inheritance and gift tax audits
  • Estate and trust litigation
  • All other services connected with the usual administration of estates and trusts
Estate and Trust Administration Team
Peter J. Strauss
Caryn B. Keppler, Esq.
Caryn B. Keppler
Kristen Peck on Blue Background - v2-01
Kristen Peck
Jacob on Blue
Jacob Verchereau

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how to deal with wills and estate after a death

Personalized attention from an experienced estate and trust administration lawyer

The process of estate and trust administration involves a lot of paperwork and following strict rules. The details can be complex and usually involve sensitive family dynamics. Situations like multiple wills, remarriages, adoptions, and the rights of minor children can all increase the stress of the administration process.

Both administrators and beneficiaries benefit from the advice and direction of a knowledgeable attorney at the helm. From managing potentially illegitimate debts to administering assets in multiple jurisdictions to conflicting state and federal laws feuding beneficiaries; estate trust administration is inherently complex. All of our attorneys are experts in avoiding all potential problems that can arise in the administration of an estate or trust.

At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we put our extensive experience to work for clients in ten locations that include Albany and the Capital Region, New York City and the New York City metropolitan region Hudson, Utica, Lake Placid, New Jersey and Florida.

Call today to schedule a confidential consultation and find out how we can help with estate and trust administration, probate court proceedings, management of estate taxes, management and distribution of trusts, and other matters that may arise.

The difference between an estate administrator and an executor

An estate administrator and an executor are tasked with taking control over an estate to settle a deceased person’s affairs and distribute assets. An executor is a person named in the will to manage these tasks, while an estate administrator is appointed by the court when the decedent dies without a will. Their duties can be very similar, though an executor may have additional powers – with more flexibility – granted by the will.

Both an estate executor and an estate administrator must be over the age of eighteen years, a United States citizen and never convicted of a felony.  In addition, in Florida, a non-relative executor or administrator must also be a Florida resident.

Both an administrator and an executor must follow the rules of the probate court and abide by a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the estate. Engaging in self-dealing or other mismanagement can lead to the fiduciary’s removal and personal liability. If you are tasked with administering an estate, it is a good idea to obtain knowledgeable advice from an experienced estate attorney so as to avoid unwittingly breaching your duties.

Estate & Trust FAQ’s

Yes, you are entitled to commissions by statute under the New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act. You are not required to take commissions, but if you do, any commissions received by you will be subject to income in the year received.

No, and they seldom succeed except when extenuating circumstances such as fraud, duress, undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity or invalid execution of the Will exist.

The estate must remain open for at least seven months from your appointment as Executor or Executrix. This period is known as the creditor’s period under New York law. However, for larger estates requiring the filing of state or federal estate tax returns, or for estates involving complicated issues or litigation, the period can be considerably longer.

No. However, they will be responsible to pay their share of any tax on any post mortem income earned on their inheritance, as well as on any income accrued to, but not realized by the deceased during his or her lifetime, such as income on savings bonds and IRAs.

If the estate is large enough to require the filing of a Federal Estate Tax Return, currently $11,200,000 in 2018, a Federal Estate Tax may be due. If the estate is large enough to require the filing of a NYS Estate Tax Return, a NYS Estate Tax may be due. The current 2018 NY exemption amount is $5,250,000 for decedents dying between April 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

Yes, each proceeding commenced in the Surrogate’s Court, including the probate proceeding, will require the payment of a fee to the Surrogate’s Court. The size of the fee will vary with the size of the estate, and can run anywhere from $45.00 to $1,250.00 depending on the size of the estate. The same fee is applicable to administration proceedings and accounting proceedings. Additional court fees may be applicable as required by statute

No. A petition must first be filed with the appropriate Surrogate’s Court to determine that the Will is valid and that you are fit for appointment as a fiduciary.

A few such factors include litigation, estate tax filing requirements, creditor’s claims, minor beneficiaries, incapacitated beneficiaries, charitable beneficiaries, accounting proceedings, problems proving the validity of the Will to the Court’s satisfaction, and assets which are difficult to value and/or distribute equitably. The aforementioned list is merely intended to be illustrative and is by no means an exhaustive list.

The cost for the legal services required to administer estates can vary widely depending on the facts and circumstances of the estate. Under New York law, there are certain factors which should be considered in determining a reasonable legal fee. Those factors include, but are not necessarily limited to, the nature of the work involved, the complexity of the work involved, the amount involved, the reputation of the attorney, the time dedicated to the file, and the results obtained. Pierro, Connor &Strauss will set forth the fee it believes is appropriate for your file in a formal letter of engagement which we will ask you to sign before commencing work on the estate. The legal fees paid are in addition to any fees paid to the Court, experts, or other third party vendors.

Certain family members who survive the decedent known as distributees. Distributees are defined under NYS Estate Powers and Trust Law. Also, certain persons adversely affected by the purported Will or a Codicil thereto may challenge the Will or Codicil.

Intestate estate administration

When a loved one dies without a will, his or her estate passes according to state intestacy laws, which prioritize inheritance by family members. For example, in most states, if the decedent leaves a spouse but no children, the spouse inherits everything; if the decedent leaves children but no spouse, the children inherit everything. If there are both a spouse and one or more children, the spouse inherits the first $50,000 plus half of the balance while the child or children inherit the rest.

Not all property needs to go through the courts to be distributed. For example, trust assets, money held in joint accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds are distributed to account holders or named beneficiaries immediately and without the need of a court supervised administration process. In fact, a trust is often used as an estate planning tool specifically to avoid the administration process.

A trust administration lawyer can help you set up a trust or answer questions related to its distribution after the death of a loved one.

The estate administration procedure

When there is no will, and therefore no executor, a court must appoint an administrator. This happens when the Surrogate’s Court issues letters of administration.

Not every surviving relative is eligible to be appointed as administrator. State law indicates  the order of priority:

  • A spouse
  • The child or children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • A first cousin, provided all of the cousins on both sides of the family are identifiable and subject to the court’s jurisdiction
  • Another person, with the consent of all interested parties

An eligible person must file an application for appointment with the court. In New York and New Jersey, that court is the Surrogate’s Court.  In Florida, that court is the Probate Division of the County Circuit court.  If the potential administrators or beneficiaries contest the appointment, the court may instead appoint an independent individual or bank to serve as the administrator. Once an administrator is appointed, he or she will need to collect and distribute the decedent’s assets, arrange and pay the decedent’s rightful debts, take actions to protect the estate assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries and make proper distributions to beneficiaries.

Speak with an accomplished trust and estate administration attorney

At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we are committed to providing skillful representation with individualized attention. Our track record of successful outcomes speaks for itself. Call us today to schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced trust and estate administration attorney.

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