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NYC Probate Lawyers

Understanding Probate: Navigating the Estate Settlement Process

After a person passes, his or her estate may need to go through probate. This is true if there are assets held by the estate at the time of death. In some cases, only a portion of the estate needs to be probated, and in others, a person will need to go through probate in New York City even if he or she doesn’t live there. Let’s take a closer look at the probate process and what you can expect from it.

Determining the Presence of a Will

One of the first things that a probate judge will do is determine if a person has a valid will. The will is generally presented to the court by the executor of the estate. If there is no will, assets will generally pass according to state intestacy laws. The same is generally true if the document is not valid for any reason.

Naming an Executor

The person who represents the estate during the probate proceedings is known as the executor. In many cases, this person is the oldest child of the deceased individual. However, it is possible to name any adult of sound mind who is willing to perform the role to this position. It is also possible to name a bank or other entity as the executor.

The executor will ideally be someone who is trustworthy and who pays attention to detail. He or she should have a solid understanding of what the deceased person wanted to do with physical possessions and any money left in the estate. Individuals may want to name an alternate executor in case the first person or entity chosen is unable to perform the duties associated with the position.

It is important to note that the executor will need to be appointed by the court during probate. In almost all cases, the person named in the will is the person who is named by the court. However, if that person is a minor or otherwise incompetent, someone else will need to do the job.

Responsibilities of the Executor

There are many different functions that the executor will perform. First, he or she will locate any assets that the deceased person may have left behind. To make this process easier, an individual should organize important documents or reveal the location of valuable assets prior to passing.

Locating assets is vital to determining the approximate value of the estate for tax purposes. An executor will be responsible for filing tax returns both for the individual and for the estate if necessary. It is possible that both state and federal taxes will need to be paid.

The executor will also evaluate claims against the estate and pay them if they are valid. If the estate doesn’t have the resources to pay a claim, it may be denied. They may also be denied if they are deemed to be not valid for any reason. Creditors and other interested parties have seven months to file a claim against the estate.

Probate Duration

In New York, the probate process can take up to nine months to complete. Most of this time is spent mailing letters and allowing time for parties to make claims against the estate. However, probate can take longer than nine months if there are lawsuits against the estate or other issues that are difficult to resolve. Larger estates can also take more time to go through probate compared to smaller ones. This is why some choose to create trusts or make gifts prior to death to reduce the size of an estate.

If you need help with probate or any issues related to settling an estate, talk to us as soon as possible. We can help you better understand the role of the executor as well as answer any questions that you have while navigating what can be a complex process.

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