FAQs Estate Administration

1. What is Estate Administration?

Estate administration is the process of probating or administering the estate of a decedent, including collecting and appraising the assets, paying all outstanding bills, filing and paying estate taxes and fiduciary income tax returns and distributing the balance of the assets to the beneficiaries.

2. What is Probate?

Probate is the court process that is required to determine the validity of a Will and to appoint an authorized representative known as an executor to handle the affairs of the estate. If there is no valid Will at the time of the decedent's death, an administration proceeding may be brought to appoint an authorized representative known as an administrator to handle the affairs of the estate. Either probate or administration is required in order to sell any real property of the decedent.

3. What is the function of the Executor or Administrator?

This person also known as the fiduciary of the estate is authorized to obtain all of the required legal documents such as deeds, trusts, mortgages and any other legal agreements and all bank statements, brokerage statements, tax returns and life insurance policies for the purpose of administering the estate of the decedent. The fiduciary also notifies the creditors that the decedent has died and if there are sufficient assets to pay the creditors, the fiduciary will pay them from the estate.

4. What are Non-Probate Assets?

Certain assets of the decedent pass outside of the probate process if there are named beneficiaries or if the assets are jointly held by the decedent and another individual. These assets do not pass through the will of the decedent but, instead, pass directly to the beneficiaries.

5. When should Probate be commenced?

Probate should commence immediately after the death of the decedent. Since there is no person authorized to act on behalf of the estate, it is necessary to probate the will as soon as possible so that an authorized representative may be appointed,

6. Can I serve as the Executor of the Estate even though I do not live in New York State?

Yes. If you were appointed in the decedent's will to serve as the Executor, you may do so even though you live outside of the state. Since most of the administration process may be done by mail, e-mail or by Federal Express, there is no problem even if you live out of town.

7. How can I start the Probate process?

Our office offers a free consultation for all estate administration matters. We will advise you of all steps to be taken from the very first telephone call through the final steps required to finalize the estate administration process.

8. Is there a simplified procedure if there aren't many estate assets?

Yes. New York State has enacted an expedited procedure for small estates which consist of less than $20,000.00 in assets. A voluntary administrator may be appointed in a short period of time without the formalities of a court probate procedure. This procedure may be used whether or not there is a will.