Estate Settlements or Administration is a legal process that happens after a person has passed away. Debts are settled, assets are distributed, and other matters are handled, such as who gets custody of minor children.
The Steps in the Estate Administration Process
Someone must be appointed as Executor to represent the estate, take action, and make decisions concerning assets and beneficiaries. They take inventory of the assets and who owned them at the time of death. In an age where we receive digital statements for things like investment accounts, it can be difficult to gather the information for online access. If you or your family member keep good records, your estate attorney can locate them faster. Other assets may be in a lockbox at a bank, in a home safe, or even hidden around the house. Debts also need to be inventoried and paid off, including credit card and hospital bills. After being paid, the Executor can distribute the assets to the estate’s beneficiaries.
The Need for Estate Administration
You might feel that death is a family matter and courts don’t need to be involved. But among family members, disputes can arise, and creditors can have an interest in the estate as well. The estate administration process ensures it is settled fairly for everyone.
Avoiding Court Involvement
If you don’t have a Will, every state has provisions in Probate Court regarding how your assets will be distributed. They make the best guess they can regarding your property distribution. When someone owns assets in their name, even when they have a Will, the court needs to be involved. But assets owned by a Revocable Trust (a living trust) or Beneficiary Designation form don’t need court intervention. This may include assets such as 401(k)s, IRAs, or life insurance.
The Time it Takes to Settle an Estate
The time to settle an estate varies due to several factors, including the number and value of assets and estate complexity. Many simple estates can be settled within six months, while more complex estates with many assets that are hard to value take much longer. When an estate tax return is required, the IRS must accept the estate tax return. And any disputes within the family, with a creditor, or the IRS extend that process.
When Beneficiaries Receive their Inheritance
If beneficiaries are receiving a certain amount of money, the Executor might be able to distribute it right after creditors are paid. But some beneficiaries receive money that’s left over at the end of estate administration, which takes more time as the estate needs to be officially closed. Executors and estate beneficiaries should communicate to establish clear expectations.
Contact us at the Law Office at Gold and Dezik to be sure experts in estate planning and administration keep you informed and move quickly throughout the process.
The Law Office of Gold and Dezik assists clients in the Western New York area, including Niagara Falls, Niagara County, Buffalo, and beyond.