Our firm makes the Probate and Administration process a fair and compassionate experience for you and your family.
Handling the Administration of Estate and Trusts with Care
At the time of death there is a lot that has to be done. The handling of an estate or trust involves taking inventory, valuing assets, tax planning, filing returns, paying bills and the need for expert guidance through the bureaucratic process. For 100 years, this process has been the mainstay of our firm, giving us the advantage of experience to handle these matters in an efficient yet sensitive manner.
“PROBATE” is the legal process to administer the estate of a deceased person by using his or her Last Will and Testament. “ADMINISTRATION” is the legal process to administer the estate of a deceased person who does not have a Last Will and Testament. In either event, the Probate or Administration of an estate is done in Surrogates Court, where the judge, called the Surrogate, oversees the process, confirms the legal validity of documents and gives its blessing, so to speak, to the Executor/Executrix (in a Last Will and Testament) or Administrator/Administratrix (if no Last Will and Testament).
Probate begins with the proving the validity of the Will. This process includes the necessity of a court hearing to give anyone who would have received a share of the estate, but for the Will, an opportunity to contest its validity. Administration begins with someone coming forward and requesting the court appoint them to be Administrator. Once the Will is found valid, the Executor, or if there is no Will, the Administrator can now begin the process of inventorying, valuing and liquidating the assets, alerting creditors and settling debts, publishing legal notices in area newspapers, and paying any income, gift and/or estate taxes that may be due. Thereafter, the process continues with the distribution of the estate assets to the beneficiaries and an accounting to the court. This is a simple version of the process, but we hope that you get the idea that much work must be done.
Some of this work can be streamlined if the court process can be avoided. This process is referred to as “avoiding probate”. This can be accomplished by holding assets jointly, naming direct beneficiaries on particular assets or by creating and funding a living revocable or irrevocable trust. Note that while assets held in living trust will avoid probate, much of the other processing duties must still be performed. Also, avoiding probate by itself does not save any taxes. Sometimes, avoiding probate will be less of a burden and save some processing and legal costs; other times, the savings is insignificant. This must be evaluated on a case by case basis.
The attorneys at Davidow, Davidow, Siegel and Stern have handled thousands of estates, from the most modest to the most affluent. No matter the size of the estate, our expertise and sensitivity will make this process a fair and compassionate experience for you and your family.