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Probate and Estate Administration

When a loved one passes away, not only do we struggle emotionally but for many people, the next step in winding up a loved ones financial affairs can be very overwhelming. The first step that should be taken is an inventory of the assets looking specifically at the type of asset and whether it is jointly held, has a beneficiary or held in the deceased individuals name alone.

If an individual dies with assets in his or her name alone and there is no beneficiary designation then one must look towards whether the decedent had a Last will and Testament. If they have a will, it will designate an individual called the executor who is to be in charge of the estate. The will also designates to whom the assets shall be distributed and in what percentages.

If an individual dies without a will, then New York State has put into place laws which determine who has the right to be in charge of the distribution based on their relationship to the decedent and also to whom and in what percentages the assets will be distributed.

In order to begin acting on behalf of the estate, it is necessary that a petition be prepared and submitted to the Surrogate's Court in the county where the decedent was a resident. This process can be confusing and there are many procedures that need to be followed in order to properly facilitate this process.

Additional issues that must be dealt with in the administration of an estate may include but are not limited to sales of real estate, liquidation of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and bank accounts, income taxation and estate taxation and payment of debts. Additionally, estate administration may include issues with family members and the personal property of the decedent.

As an executor or administrator of an estate, there are many complex issues and details that must be addressed when in the process of winding up a loved ones affairs. If not done properly it can open up the fiduciary to personal liability. It is very important to consult with an Elder Law Attorney in order to make sure that all the necessary steps are taken and that the executor is fully protected from any personal liability.