New York Estate Administration Attorneys
After the death of a loved one, managing the seemingly countless number of tasks involved when you are the Executor or Administrator of the Estate can be overwhelming and challenging — to say the least. However, you are not alone. The experienced probate and estate administration lawyers at Cona Elder Law are on your team to help you every step of the way. When the unthinkable happens, let us be your lifeline.
Estate administration and the probate process can be complex, requiring not only legal assistance but financial and tax expertise as well. We help our clients and their families by breaking down these important steps to relieve some of the stress so that you are able to focus on yourself and your family.
If you are looking for a probate lawyer or administration attorney on Long Island or in New York City, you're in the right place. Let the experienced and compassionate law firm of Cona Elder Law help you navigate the complex legal and financial considerations of the probate and administration process.
How Do You Appoint an Executor or Administrator of an Estate?
An Executor or Administrator of an Estate is appointed by the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the decedent resided. If the decedent had a Will, the Will is submitted to the Court for probate, at which time the Court will authorize the Executor named in the Will to act by issuing Letters Testamentary. If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), a petition for estate administration is submitted to the Court which will appoint an Administrator to handle the estate. No one has authority to act unless and until the Court issues Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration.
Who Can Serve as an Estate Administrator?
When a person passes away without a Will (intestate), New York law sets forth who will be appointed as Administrator of the estate in the following order of priority:
- Surviving spouse
- Any other heir who is eligible to qualify
The individual with the highest priority has first right to serve as the Administrator of the estate - unless they are disqualified.
Who Can't Serve as an Estate Administrator?
People who are disqualified from serving as the Administrator of an estate in New York include:
- Convicted felons
- Incapacitated individuals
- Non-citizens and non-permanent residents of the United States
- Anyone else who is “unfit” such as by reason of substance abuse, dishonesty, improvidence, want of understanding, or otherwise unfit for the execution of duties. This final category is intentionally broad and leaves discretion to the courts to determine whether a person is qualified.
New York Estate Administration vs Probate
When a person dies with a Last Will and Testament, the process of admitting the Will to the Surrogate’s Court is referred to as Probate; a similar Court process, referred to as Administration, occurs when a person passes away without a Will.
In both cases, the Court must approve and authorize your fiduciary to act by issuing Letters Testamentary in the case of Probate when there is a Will, or Letters of Administration when an individual passes away Intestate (without a Will). These “Letters” issued by the Surrogate’s Court give your Executor or Administrator the authority to collect assets, pay bills, sell property, and distribute assets to your beneficiaries as stated in your Will or, if you do not have a Will, according to the New York Laws of Intestacy.
How an Estate Administration Lawyer Can Help You
As an Executor or Administrator, you’ll have many responsibilities and the process can be daunting and confusing. First, you must prepare all required Court petitions and appear in Surrogate’s Court. Once appointed, you will have a fiduciary responsibility to act in good faith, prudently, and with undivided loyalty to the beneficiaries of the estate.
Many of these duties require legal assistance, and in some cases, financial and tax expertise as well. The dedicated and compassionate probate and estate administration attorneys at Cona Elder Law prepare the Court petitions and appear in Court for and with you. We guide you through the entire process so that you, your heirs and your assets are protected. Our knowledgeable trusts, estates and probate attorneys ensure full compliance with all laws and seek to avoid any conflicts while handling:
- All court proceedings to initiate probate/administration
- Access to and collection of assets
- Sale and liquidation of assets
- Preparation of asset inventories
- Payment of bills
- Negotiation and payment of claims against the estate
- Distributions to beneficiaries
- Determination of estate tax liabilities
- Estate tax planning and tax return preparation
- Trust administration
- Preparation of Accountings
- Litigation that may ensue between the beneficiaries
Our New York Estate Administration Services
Administering and settling an estate can be very complicated with plenty of room for missteps. The Executor or Administrator has a fiduciary duty to protect the estate and can be surcharged by the Court for any failures or errors. When it comes to tax filings, whether final income tax returns of the decedent or estate tax returns, any mistakes in this regard can be very costly, including interest and penalties due to the IRS. For this reason, family members turn to the experienced estate administration attorneys at Cona Elder Law to handle the entire process and to ensure a smooth transition of assets.
Before an estate can be concluded, an accounting must be prepared reflecting all financial transactions occurring within the estate. The Executor or Administrator must account for all assets received, income and interest earned, all bills paid, commissions earned and bequests and gifts paid. Once approved, the accounting absolves the Executor or Administered from liability.
An accounting is commonly prepared at the end of the administration of the estate and just before final distributions are made to the beneficiaries. Generally, an accounting entails a statement showing:
- The assets of the estate
- Income from assets
- Liquidation of assets
- Payments of debts and expenses
- Interim distributions
- All remaining property
The smooth administration of an estate begins with high-quality estate planning with the experienced trust and estates attorneys at Cona Elder Law and ends with a seamless transition of assets to your heirs as you intended. Proper and intentional planning avoids family fighting and litigation, protecting your assets and leaving your family relationships intact.
Not all assets owned by the deceased person at the time of his/her death will need to go through probate; these are called non-probate assets. Non-probate assets will pass directly to the named beneficiaries. Non-probate assets include life insurance, jointly held bank accounts, retirement accounts, such as 401ks and IRAs, accounts payable on death (“POD”) or transferable on death (“TOD”), accounts held in a revocable living trust or an irrevocable living trust, jointly held real property, and accounts with named beneficiaries.
Both New York State and the federal government impose an estate tax on the value of an individual’s estate upon death. The federal and state estate tax limits fluctuate based on the tax laws and political climate. Clients need to be constantly vigilant and in touch with their experienced trust, estates and probate attorneys at Cona Elder Law to be sure their plan is up to date.
Contact Our Law Firm for Your Estate Administration and Probate Needs
It is easy to get overwhelmed with the tasks at hand when a loved one has passed. Fortunately, you’re not alone. The experienced Long Island probate and estate administration attorneys at Cona Elder Law can help you every step of the way. Our elder law attorneys will help you navigate the complex legal and financial issues and will be part of your fiduciary team throughout the estate administration process.
Starting with best-in-class estate planning and asset protection planning, the dedicated and compassionate estates and trusts attorneys at Cona Elder Law have helped countless individuals and families like yours protect their assets and their loved ones by seamlessly passing assets from generation to generation. The gift is yours to give. Contact the lawyers at Cona Elder Law who will support you every step of the way.
NY Estate Administration FAQs
Do you need an estate attorney and is there a difference if it’s probate? Read on to find out more.
What Happens if More than One Person Has a Right to Serve as an Estate Administrator?
If more than one individual has the same priority position, each person will have an equal right to serve as Administrator. For example, if a decedent leaves behind two children and no spouse, the two children have an equal right to serve. As a result, they can decide to:
- Agree that only one child will serve
- Agree to serve together or
- Litigate and let the Court decide who is the most qualified to serve as Administrator.
What is the Difference Between a Probate Lawyer and an Estate Lawyer on Long Island?
Probate lawyers and estate lawyers are largely one and the same because the estate administration process is largely the same. If there is a Will, the Will is submitted to the Surrogate’s Court which issues Letters Testamentary to the Executor. If there is no Will, the Surrogate’s Court will appoint an Administrator to distribute assets to heirs according to the Laws of Intestacy. In both cases, the Executor and the Administrator have the same obligations and fiduciary duties, for which they require the services of an experienced probate and estate administration attorney.
Is an Estate Attorney Necessary?
Very simply, yes! Preparing and filing court petitions, serving heirs and beneficiaries, negotiating and resolving creditor disputes, legally transferring title to assets, preparing all required tax returns, filing accountings and resolving efficiently any disputes that may arise require top-notch counsel like the knowledgeable trust and estates lawyers at Cona Elder Law. There’s too much at stake when your assets and your heirs are on the line. When dealing with your estate, it’s not the time to be penny wise and pound foolish.