When a loved one passes away, it is not only a difficult and emotional time, but also a time when many questions arise as to distribution of that loved one’s assets. The primary question that is asked most often is: Does that person’s Will have to be probated? If the decedent had assets in his/her own name without a beneficiary designation, then in order to distribute those assets, his/her Will must be admitted to probate.
Probate is the legal process whereby the person named or nominated as Executor under the decedent’s Will must petition the county Surrogate’s Court in order for the Court to validate the Will and give formal legal authority (Letters Testamentary) to the nominated Executor to administer the estate. If the decedent did not have a Will, then a family member must commence an Administration proceeding in the County Surrogate’s Court in order to be appointed Administrator of the decedent’s estate. A formally appointed Administrator then has the authority to collect and distribute the decedent’s assets to the decedent’s heirs–at-law pursuant to New York State’s Intestate Statute.
Fiduciary Responsibilities of an Executor or Administrator
The Executor or Administrator will have many fiduciary responsibilities including, but not limited to the following:
- Marshalling the assets of the decedent and depositing them into an estate account;
- Payment of all debts, liabilities and taxes of the decedent;
- File an estate income tax return;
- Account for all of the income and expenses of the estate assets;
- Distribute the estate assets in accordance with the terms of the Will or in the case of an Administration, to the heirs-at-law under the New York State’s Intestate Statute;
- File an Inventory of Assets with the applicable county Surrogate’s Court.
At the Atlas Law Group, we have handled hundreds of Probate and Administration proceedings and provide comprehensive instructions, as well as compassionate guidance to our clients, the Executors and Administrators, throughout each step of the process.
For clients who have created and funded Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts, upon their demise, their families will not have to commence a probate or administration proceeding to distribute the assets of the Trust in accordance with the Trust provisions. Rather, the distribution can be done without Court intervention by the successor Trustee(s) named in the Trust document. However, the successor Trustee(s), still has similar Fiduciary responsibilities as an Executor or Administrator has.
At the Atlas Law Group, we represent the Trustee(s) of Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts and provide them with the necessary and timely legal advice to ensure that their fiduciary responsibilities are diligently performed and that the overall Trust administration is completed in a timely and cost efficient manner.