Cona Elder Law

An elder law attorney discussing probate and estate planning with a client

Probate & Estates Unscrambled


Published in Long Island Press and Dan’s Papers.

Coping with the death of a loved one is the most difficult life event we will ever have to face and it can be even more difficult when you are the executor or administrator of your loved one’s estate.

Managing the seemingly countless tasks involved can be overwhelming, but there are several things you should do soon after your loved one has passed:

  • Notify the Social Security Administration if the funeral home did not do this for you.
  • Contact pension companies to notify them that your loved one has passed.
  • Secure original death certificates for each bank, brokerage, financial institution and insurance company where your loved one had accounts.
  • Close your loved one’s credit card accounts to prevent fraud and identity theft.
  • Collect mail to gather bank statements, bills and other financial documents.
  • Locate the original last will and testament, trust, and any other estate planning documents.
  • Gather all insurance policies.

Your attorney will need this information and the documents. Once the assets and accounts are secured, you can press pause and take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Probate and the estate administration process are complex, requiring not only legal assistance but often financial and tax expertise as well. But with guidance and an understanding of some basic terminology, the process can be unscrambled.

When an individual passes away, a representative is appointed to manage the estate and ultimately transfer the estate assets to the beneficiaries. If your loved one had a last will and testament, the executor named in the will submits the will to the Surrogate’s Court. This is called “probate.” If the individual died without a will, the Surrogate’s Court will appoint an administrator of the estate to handle the administration. The laws of intestacy determine the priority order of family members who can serve as the administrator as well as which family members will inherit the assets.

Whether you are the executor or the administrator of the estate, you will need to: collect and safeguard all assets of the decedent; create a comprehensive inventory of all assets; open a checking account for the estate; handle real estate; pay bills; pay all debts and claims made against the estate; prepare and file tax returns; obtain waivers from all beneficiaries; and distribute all remaining money to the beneficiaries.

This is not an exhaustive list. Further, if complications arise, such as disputes, disinherited parties or family fighting, the process can become lengthy and costly.

Before any money can be distributed to the beneficiaries, you must prepare a comprehensive accounting of the 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 any preliminary distributions already made to beneficiaries. This accounting ultimately absolves the executor or administrator from liability once all beneficiaries have received their distributions and have signed waivers.

In this complex area of law, the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Cona Elder Law are on your team helping you every step of the way so you can focus on yourself and your family.

Click here to read in as published online in Long Island Press.

About the Author Cona Elder Law

Cona Elder Law is a full service law firm based in Melville, LI. Our firm concentrates in the areas of elder law, estate planning, estate administration and litigation, special needs planning and health care facility representation. We are proud to have been recognized for our innovative strategies, creative techniques and unparalleled negotiating skills unendingly driven toward our paramount objective - satisfying the needs of our clients.

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