Queens Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

A quick look at the probate process

Losing a friend or loved one can be emotional. It is during this hard time that people are forced to make crucial decisions regarding a person’s estate. In some cases, the estate will need to go through the probate process, which helps to settle matters, such as ensuring the will is valid and that the estate assets and property gets to the beneficiaries named in the will. If an estate administrator or executor of the will is named within the document, that person is responsible for seeing the will through the probate process.

The first step is to file the last will and testament along with a copy of the death certificate and an application for probate. These documents should be submitted to the Surrogate’s Court located within the county where the deceased lived. From there the administrator must located all property and assets in the estate and determine the value. Any remaining taxes and debts owed by the deceased are then paid out of the estate’s assets. Throughout the probate process, the administrator must protect the property from vandalism and make sure nothing is taken from the estate. Once everything is paid, the remaining property and assets are then distributed to the rightful heirs.

What should I consider when choosing an executor?

As you are planning your estate in New York, one big decision you will have to make is who will be your executor. This is a very important choice that can have a far-reaching impact. The executor will ensure that your wishes are carried out after you are no longer around to see to them. Choosing the right executor can make things go more smoothly for your heirs.

According to Kiplinger, there are some important considerations to keep in mind as you choose your executor. These things will help ensure that you choose someone who will handle the estate properly and in the way you wanted.

How do you remove an executor?

New York residents who are dealing with matters of wills and estates will also be dealing with executors. However, situations may come up in which you believe an executor of a will or estate should be removed from their position for whatever reason.

According to FindLaw, as the executor of a will, a person has a number of duties that they are expected to accomplish. This includes paying bills for the estate, distributing assets according to the will, paying any taxes due, maintaining property, and making court appearances on behalf of the estate.

What happens if I die without creating a will?

Most people in America understand that it is important to have a will to ensure that when a person passes away, their property will transfer properly to their beneficiaries. However, far too many people put off creating any kind of will at all, because they assume they'll get around to it, or possibly even fear creating it.

In the last several years, we've seen several high-profile celebrities pass away with significant estates and no will to direct how to disperse their property. Unfortunately, this means that the government must step in and more or less seize the property until it determines how to disperse it according to state law.

New York and federal estate taxes

New York residents live in a minority state in at least one senese: the probate process levies an estate tax on inheritances. This is in addition to federal taxes of the same type. 

An estate represents the efforts of at least one lifetime. Some of the assets in estates — business earnings, wages and stock dividends, for example — were typically previously reduced by taxes. It is often possible to avoid further taxation, but it often requires significant planning. It also requires a thorough understanding of the way the tax works.

Breaking down trust terminology

Terminology is one of the largest challenges people in New York have when first considering trusts as a form of estate management. This article briefly considers a few key terms and phrases the law uses, hopefully with the effect of clarifying the language for non-lawyers.

It is important to remember that many of these terms could be different from one jurisdiction to the next. Therefore, focusing on understanding the role, behavior or idea in question — rather than simply memorizing the words — is usually the quickest way to comprehend how trusts work.

Fair and equitable inheritances for children

What if, before the age of majority and full inheritance, one of your children had an opportunity to attend an elite school? What if one decided to study finance, while another pursued a less bankable profession? Our team here at the office of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C., strives to aid New York parents in developing long-term, sustainable estate distribution strategies that would be fair to all children, even in the face of these types of complex situations.

Even if you were the parent of a single child, it could benefit your progeny and your estate to consider some alternatives to a standard will. The courts in New York would probably be relatively simplistic when it comes to distributing your assets to your minor child or children. 

The importance of digital asset management in estate planning

These days, New York estate planning usually includes a strategy on how to handle important online information. This is necessitated by various factors: most notably the rise of the internet as the world's primary communication channel. Third parties now hold most letters, images and memories on remote storage devices. Commonly, large international tech companies, such as social networks, computer manufacturers and advertising companies, are the entities providing these services.

On one hand, the value of these digital items to an estate is often clear. On the other hand, some tech organizations build their reputations on high security and confidentiality. Furthermore, accepting fraudulent requests for information could lead to legal issues for the custodian of a digital asset. As such, companies might not see it in their best interest to divulge user information, even after the passing of the user in question. This issue engendered a federal law, known as Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which New York adapted and included in its own code regulating estate issues.

How can I control my estate after distribution?

You are far from alone if you have suspicions your heirs might misuse the resources that you intend to leave to them. Many New York families have the same concerns, whether they stem from the immaturity of the beneficiaries, a known inclination towards a certain type of spending or even differing political views. Your assets represent your own hard work — and potentially that of your forbearers as well. Unfortunately, a will would simply bequeath assets in most cases, giving you no control over how they are spent, leveraged against or disposed of. 

One possible tactic to increase your control over your assets after your passing is to place your confidence in an individual or institution — to appoint a dutiful party to control your funds and carry out your intentions. Trusts are the documents that represent this type of agreement, and they are versatile tools for estate planning.

When are living trusts a bad idea?

Many people are recommended to start living trusts when they begin planning their estate. Living trusts can be beneficial for many people who are looking to avoid losing high portions of their estate in the probate process and create a legacy for their loved ones. There are many benefits that come with starting a living trust, but before starting one, it is important to understand more about the wide variety of estate planning tools and strategies that are available to you.

Before starting a living trust, it is vital that you conduct adequate research and consider whether doing so is a lucrative and appropriate decision based on your specific financial and personal circumstances. The following blog will address what factors might indicate that setting up a living trust is not ideal for you.

Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C.
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Jamaica, New York 11432

Phone: 347-395-4799
Fax: 718-701-3726
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Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C.