Estate administration refers to the process of managing and distributing a deceased person's assets and liabilities according to their wishes, either as expressed in their final will or as determined by the state intestacy laws in the absence of a will. This multifaceted process involves various legal, financial, and administrative tasks, often requiring a deep understanding of state laws and regulations.
In other words, it's not something that the average layperson can handle on their own. Dealing with the passing of a loved one is already challenging enough. Amid all the emotional turmoil that brings, having an estate administration attorney's assistance can benefit you in the following ways:
1. They offer clarity around the legal steps that need to be followed.
If the deceased left behind a will, the attorney can help you determine its validity under the law, guide you through the opening of probate, assess and address any creditor's claims against the estate, settle any challenges, and make sure that any trusts tied to pour-over wills are properly funded.
If the deceased died intestate, or without a will, an attorney can guide you through the intricacies of intestate succession laws so that your family understands who is actually entitled to inherit what part of the estate. They can also assist your family with choosing an executor and obtaining the court's recognition of that person in the role.
2. They can make certain that the estate's tax obligations are met.
Estate taxes can be a significant concern, but there are legal ways to minimize tax liabilities and still remain compliant with federal and state tax laws. An attorney can help you decide whether investments need to mature before they are cashed out in order to minimize certain taxes, or what other steps to take to keep the bulk of the estate from being eaten away by tax obligations.
In addition, an attorney can also help with asset valuation if the estate has significant holdings. This can be critical for estates that have unusual collections, such as art, or estates that include interest in or ownership of a business. Asset valuation is crucial for both tax purposes and equitable distribution of the estate to the deceased's heirs.
3. They provide a valuable buffer between the executor and the heirs.
Sometimes the heirs of an estate are unhappy about the terms of a will. Sometimes, they're simply impatient. Either way, they can become a headache and a source of significant distress to the executor, especially if the heirs believe that the executor is simply "holding things up."
As a neutral third party, an estate administration attorney can often ease family tensions and help resolve disputes before they turn into expensive litigation.
For more information, contact an estate administration attorney.