Administering the estate of a family member can be time consuming and emotionally draining. Handling the details of an estate can be particularly hard if you are grieving the loss of a loved one or if there is disagreement within the family. When a family member dies, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with an attorney experienced in administering estates as soon as possible. In this meeting, the attorney will provide advice on how to properly handle matters related to death and also determine whether administration is necessary. Often, administering an estate is unnecessary because assets are already handled by other methods of transferring title. It is important to engage the attorney early in the process to make sure that everything is handled properly and to avoid any future problems with assets.
If probate of a Will is necessary, the attorney will prepare documents to have the Will formally recognized by the Court and to appoint an Executor, who is the person named in the Will to officially carry out the provisions of the Will. The Decedent’s creditors must be notified of the death and the notice must be published in the newspaper. Creditors have 90 days from the date of first publication to file documents showing they are entitled to payment of their debt from Estate assets. After the 90 day period expires, the attorney usually will be in a position to guide the Executor through closing the estate, paying valid creditor claims and distributing assets to the beneficiaries. The probate process will take a minimum of approximately 4 months but could stretch out much longer, depending on the situation.
If the Decedent did not have a valid Last Will and Testament, the process is similar to that of Probate but a bit more complicated since everything is governed only by state law as compared to the provisions of a Will. The documents filed with the court are different and there are additional requirements imposed by state law, such as the formal determination of the heirs at law of the Decedent. The person appointed to represent the Estate through the process is called an Administrator. The Administrator is given numerous statutory responsibilities with respect to the administration of the estate.
It is critical that an Executor or Administrator of an estate engage an experienced attorney to guide them through the probate process. Executors and Administrators are responsible for managing all of the estate assets for both the creditors and the beneficiaries. They are often in control of significant monetary assets, business interests, land and personal property. As a result, Courts hold Executors and Administrators to a high standard and expect nothing less than professionalism and competency in managing the assets. Executors and Administrators that mismanage money or use estate funds for their personal gain will be held personally accountable to the court and possibly to criminal charges. Guidance from an experienced attorney ensures proper decision-making and handling of assets.
We routinely guide Executors and Administrators through the emotional process of administering a loved one’s estate and have been doing so for a long time. We will make sure that you navigate the complicated estate administration laws in the proper manner so that your loved one’s affairs are handled as efficiently and quickly as possible.