Administering a loved one’s estate can be time consuming and stressful, and there are may misconceptions about probate. “Probate” is simply the legal process by which the court supervises distribution of a person’s assets according to his or her will, or, if no will has been drawn, according to the laws of intestacy.
Probate is an involved process that involves filing a petition, sending notice to all heirs named in a will, assigning an Executor or Administrator, creating an inventory of all assets, paying the estate debt and taxes, and finally distributing the remaining assets to the appropriate beneficiaries.
Not all assets will pass through probate. For example, life insurance and retirement accounts pass directly to the beneficiary without involvement of the surrogate’s court. Similarly, a shared asset of a joint tenant passes directly to the joint tenant. However, these assets are still taxable and must be considered when calculating the appropriate estate tax.
Attorneys at Westfall Law are prepared to advise you through every step; from preparing the petition to producing an accounting of the estate, our attorneys will assist you in a personalized, cost-effective manner.
When an individual passes and leaves behind a significant estate to be distributed, or when there are many stakeholders involved, the probate process can get quarrelsome. We have significant experience probating contested estates as well as complex estates, the assets of which are spread across international boarders.
If an individual dies with a Last Will & Testament (or “Will” as its colloquially known) the executor of their estate petitions the Surrogate’s Court for “Letters Testamentary” to empower them to distribute the assets of the Estate.
If an individual dies without a Will, that person’s next of kin or personal representative petitions the court for “Letters of Administration.”
Letters of Administration and Letters Testamentary have virtually the same effect. They are simply different terms to indicate whether the recipients powers are derived from the decedents Last Will & Testament.
While time-consuming and frustrating, Westfall Law can help manage the probate process and help you navigate the confusing system of taxation associated with inheritance. We will provide counseling throughout the difficult time associated with probate, ensuring your estate and family is cared fore every step of the way.
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