Whether it was expected or accidental, the death of a loved one is stressful enough without the added complications in settling the deceased person’s financial affairs. Upon death, any assets that are not beneficiary designated or have a joint owner, are considered probate assets. Probate assets require a court order to pass title.

Once you determine that you have probate assets, it is necessary to petition the Surrogate’s Court (in the County where the decedent lived) to be appointed personal representative of the estate.

If a decedent executed a Last Will and Testament, then the Will should be admitted to probate at the Surrogate’s Court.  The personal estate representative, the Executor, is appointed by the Court to carry out the wishes expressed in your Will.

Administration proceeding, as contrasted with probate, is when someone dies without a Will.  If the decedent died without leaving a Will, then an application must be made to the Surrogate’s Court to have an Administrator (not Executor) appointed.  If you die without a Will then your estate will be governed by the intestacy laws of the state in which you reside at the time of your death.

Probate or Administration proceedings may be required for transferring title to real estate, automobiles, art or collectibles, intangible rights (e.g. copyrights), bank accounts, and investments held decedent’s name alone.

Whether you are appointed Executor or Administrator, you are responsible for identifying and securing estate property, settling or objecting to any debts, paying any inheritance or estate taxes, and securing receipts and releases from estate beneficiaries before final distributions are made.

The entire probate or estate administration process can take about 12 months.  The length of time it takes to complete estate proceedings depends on the complexity of the estate assets and whether you retained an attorney experienced in this field of law.

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To learn more about how you can settle an estate of a loved one, contact us and let us help you navigate the probate or estate administration process.


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