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Spotlight on Elderlaw: The Importance of Proper Estate Administration

by Alexander S. Bader, Esq., Brady & Marshak, LLP, Attorneys at Law

As we all know, there is no event more difficult in life than the loss of a loved one. Beyond the most important issues resulting from such a loss: the grieving, healing and honoring of the deceased, there are many steps to be completed prior to winding up the estate and distributing assets left behind by the decedent.  In the event you are the executor appointed in your loved one’s Last Will and Testament, or in the event your close relative left no will, affirmative steps must be taken to address the suitable disposition of the assets, resolution of debts, and completion of tax returns for your loved one’s estate.  It is advisable to seek advice from an attorney experienced with matters such as probate and estate administration, to ensure that all relevant laws are complied with, examples of which are outlined below:

  • Petitioning the court:   Most often upon an individual’s passing, a proceeding must be initiated with the local Surrogate’s Court to appoint an Executor or Administrator of the estate. Commonly this process is known as “Probate” (without a will it would more properly be referred to as an “Administration”). An experienced attorney will be able to advise you on the type of proceeding or proceedings required (or if one is needed at all), the necessary documents that must be executed, and the individuals that must be contacted to comply with relevant law.
  • Dealing with difficult family circumstances: If there are disagreements among closely related family members, this will make matters even more complicated during such a trying time. Experienced counsel can help explain what your rights are and advise how to best deal with such contentious circumstances.
  • Dealing with financial institutions: Every financial institution has their own unique requirements for transferring assets and most often the requirements are more onerous when dealing with a decedent’s assets.
  • All tax returns, including final personal, fiduciary and estate returns, when applicable, must be filed properly and in a timely fashion: Should you be appointed by the court Executor or Administrator of an estate, it will be your responsibility to file any required tax returns.
  • Dealing with Debts: If your loved one passed away leaving any creditors, the creditors must not be ignored or else there could be serious consequences. An experienced attorney can advise as to what the estate’s rights are in relation to each creditor and discuss priority of creditors.
  • Dealing with Beneficiaries: Much like creditors, beneficiaries named in a decedent’s will must be addressed in a particular manner under the law. Experienced counsel will assist an Executor or Administrator in this task to help protect against any beneficiary later attempting to assert that the matter was not handled correctly.
  • Accounting to the court: Every matter that requires the petitioning of the court also requires some form of accounting to the court for the items that the Executor or Administrator collected in such a capacity.
  • An Executor or Administrator may risk personal liability if the matter is not handled properly. The court holds an Executor/Administrator to a high fiduciary standard and, likewise, will hold the fiduciary responsible in certain circumstances if the standard is not met.

The contents of this article are in no way intended to be legal advice, are provided for educational and informational purposes only, and are directed only to those whose loved one passed away domiciled in the State of New York. Please feel free to contact our office and ask about registering to attend one of our upcoming educational seminars.  Our attorneys can be reached at Brady & Marshak, LLP, Attorneys at Law, (718) 738-8500.

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