Estate Administration Services

Gavel next to a willWhen a person dies and has assets solely in his/her own name, it is generally necessary to open a formal proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court. In legalese, the deceased is referred to as the “decedent” and the formal proceeding is called “Probate.” Probate is the process used to pass the assets on to others. If the decedent has a Will, the recipients named in this Will are called beneficiaries and the estate is considered to be a “Testate Estate.” If the decedent does not have a Will, the recipients of this person’s assets are the “heirs at law” (known as “administration”). This is known as an “Intestate estate.”

In either case, either the named executor or the administrator must commence a proceeding in Surrogate’s Court that notifies the community of the person’s death. This proceeding provides an opportunity for creditors to file claims against the estate and heirs to voice objections if they feel that there is something awry in the decedent’s testamentary plan. Needless to say, this is a very confusing process at a time when the person in charge of the estate is often in mourning over the loss of a loved one. PB assists families in the handling of the decedent’s estate.

What We Do

Among other things, we help to open the estate. This includes finding heirs and notifying them that a case will be opened in Surrogate’s Court. We inform them of their right to object to the appointment of the executor or administrator and to the admission of the will to probate. We appear in court for the estate and respond to the questions raised by the executor and family members. Questions range from: “What am I getting?” to “When I am getting it?” and everything in between.

The executor’s job is to locate the assets and gather them for distribution to the beneficiaries of the estate. This can be a time consuming and tedious process for the executor. It is often very confusing and complicated. Our staff helps to sort through the assets and works closely with the executor to inventory the estate. We determine the date of death values, develop a record of all of the transactions, and prepare an accounting for the beneficiaries to show them what was in the estate at the beginning and what happened from that point to the time of distribution of the assets.

In some estates, tax returns have to be filed. We work closely with accounting professionals to get the returns prepared and filed. Often, a home or vacation property has to be sold. PB coordinates the sale of the properties with real estate attorneys to make sure the sales are closed. In many estates, there are stocks and investment accounts that have to be liquidated. We work closely with brokers and investment advisors to sell the stocks and bonds or transfer them directly to the heirs.

After all of the assets have been accounted for and all creditors paid, we prepare an accounting for all of the beneficiaries under the will or the heirs at law (if there is no will). After getting their consent, we prepare and file the documents to release the executor, distribute the assets, and close the estate.

The attorneys and staff of Pfalzgraf Beinhauer are there to guide you, direct you, and protect you–every step of the way.