Were you recently informed that you are the Executor of the estate of a recently deceased loved one? If so, and this is the first time you have served in the role of Executor, you are probably unsure of what needs to be done during the probate of the estate. Trying to figure that out while grieving the loss of your loved one can be extremely difficult and stressful. Although no two estates follow the exact same path through the probate process, there are some common steps involved in the Long Island probate process. If you have specific questions about the probate of your loved one’s estate, be sure to consult with an experienced Long Island estate planning attorney.
What Is Probate?
When a person dies, he or she leaves behind and estate that consists of all assets owned by the decedent at the time of death, including both tangle and intangible assets as well as real and personal property. Eventually, those assets need to be transferred to the new owners. In addition, creditors of the estate need the opportunity to file claims against the estate and taxes owed to the state and/or federal government must be paid before those assets can be passed down to beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. All of this occurs during the probate process.
Getting the Long Island Probate Process Started
If you were notified that you are the Executor of the estate, that means that the decedent appointed you to the position in his/her Last Will and Testament. It also means that the decedent had a considerable amount of faith and trust in you and your abilities. To get started in your capacity as Executor, you need to:
- Locate an original copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament to submit to the appropriate probate court.
- Identify and locate all estate assets.
- Obtain several certified copies of the decedent’s death certificate.
- Prepare a petition to open probate.
- Consult with an experienced Long Island probate attorney
The probate process actually starts when you file a petition to probate, along with the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, with the appropriate probate court – usually in the county in which the decedent was a resident at the time of death. Before doing that, however, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to determine if the estate qualifies for a simplified probate process for small estates. Having an attorney on your side also ensures that you do not make costly mistakes if the estate requires formal probate.
What Happens during the Long Island Probate Process?
Common steps involved in the probate of a typical estate will include:
- Petitioning to open probate
- Notifying creditors of the estate that the probate process is underway.
- Reviewing claims filed by creditors of the estate and approving or denying each claim.
- Paying approved claims out of available estate assets. If the estate lacks sufficient liquid assets to satisfy all claims, you will need to sell assets to raise the necessary funds.
- Defend the estate against any challenges, such as a Will contest filed by an “interested party.”
- Calculating and paying any state and/or federal gift and estate taxes due from the estate. Keep in mind that if the estate lacks sufficient assets to pay all taxes and creditor claims, claims and tax debts those claims/debts are paid according to priority as determined by law.
- Effectuating the legal transfer of the remaining estate assets from the estate to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
If you have never been in charge of probating an estate before, it is always best to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney early on in the process to ensure that you do not make costly (both in terms of time and money) mistakes.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about the Long Island probate process, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.