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Guide for Estate Administrators and Executors

A Bird’s Eye View of Settling an Estate 

If you have been asked by a loved one or friend to serve as executor, you have taken on a huge responsibility. This does not mean that having to settle an estate is something that you shouldn’t do, just that you need to have a good idea about what is involved, what the payoff will be and when you should consider hiring a Westchester estate attorney.

The ultimate duty of an executor or administrator is to pay off the debts and taxes of the estate and to distribute what remains to the beneficiaries, either those that are specified in a will or those who are due to inherit under intestacy laws. The duties of an executor or administrator are serious and time consuming and can last a number of months. Executors need to keep in mind that they are under no obligation to use the same attorney who drafted the will to assist them with settling the estate or defending a will contest.

The first thing that an executor or administrator must do is to pay off the debts and taxes of the estate. Regardless of how a will says an estate should be distributed, debts have to be paid first. This means that there will be times when property subject to probate, such as real property that is not subject to a trust or was not jointly owned with someone else, will have to be sold if estate debts need to be paid. This could mean, on occasion, that those who would normally have inherited under a will or through intestacy may not be able to collect anything if there were enough estate debts. Examples of estate debts would be funeral expenses, outstanding tax debts, credit card expenses, legal judgments, etc.

After the debts are paid, the executor or administrator would then distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries. If there is a will, this is probably already spelled out in detail so that the testator could let his or her wishes known. If there were no will, the administrator would distribute the assets according to intestacy laws.

Along with paying debts and distributing assets, another duty of the executor is to defend against challenges to the will. It is not uncommon if a beneficiary or potential beneficiary feels slighted that they will challenge the will in surrogate’s court. Regardless of the reason behind the challenge, you should get a Westchester estate attorney in such a situation.

An executor is entitled to a fee for his or her work, along with reimbursement for any out of pocket expenses for things such as paying insurance on property or paying towards a mortgage. Executor fees are percentage based and vary depending on the size of the estate.

It is wise for any executor or administrator to hire an experienced Westchester estate attorney as soon as possible when the testator dies. There are many duties in place that an executor has to follow to keep them from running into late legal trouble with the beneficiaries, such as exercising transparency and taking care of the estate promptly.

If you are an Administrator or Executor who is looking for an estate attorney in Westchester County, New York call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (914) 293-2043.