What Type of Information Is Entailed Concerning the Discovery of Estate Assets?

Whether someone dies with or without a will in New York, there are set probate court processes and procedures that must be followed to determine the state assets. If the deceased left a will, this duty falls to the executor of the estate. If the deceased did not leave a will, then this duty falls to the administrator of the estate, who is assigned and selected by the Surrogate Court.

Step 1: Identify Estate Assets

The first step is to identify all estate assets. Estate assets can include but may not be limited to:

  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Bank Accounts
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Real Property
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Business Ownership Rights

In the digital age, some estate assets may not be easily discerned. The executor or administrator may have to obtain access to the deceased’s email or other electronic accounts to fully discover every asset.

Step 2: Review the Will and Other Essential Documents

A business man sitting at his desk in dark jacket suit

If there is a will left, it is a good starting place to begin the discovery of estate asset process. The deceased will often have included all known assets in the will and their intentions on the distributions of said assets.

Besides the will, other documents that should be reviewed include bank statements, tax returns, stock ownership dividend statements, and so on. One could also do title searches to help discover property ownership and vehicle ownership.

Keep in mind, not all assets may be listed in these documents. Sometimes, the deceased may have left cash, jewelry, artwork, and other such assets that are considered physical property.

Step 3: Secure the Estate Assets

As the executor or administrator is discovering estate assets, they have the responsibility to secure the assets. Securing the assets means they are required to collect and protect the assets until they can be distributed according to the will or following New York State estate administration processes.

Failure to do so could result in interested parties seeking to remove the executor or administrator of the estate.

Step 4: Prepare a Detailed Statement of Estate Assets

Another essential task that is part of the discovery of estate asset process is to make a detailed statement of all estate assets. This statement needs to be accurate. It should contain current balances of cash accounts, as well as current market values for other assets.

The statement of estate assets may be relied on when it is time to distribute the asset. For instance, the deceased wished that the cash balance in their savings account be distributed to their four grandchildren. As such, the balance would be equally divided by four.

Step 5: Distribute Estate Assets

The final process the executor or administrator has is to distribute the estate assets. When there is a will, assets are typically distributed according to the deceased’s wishes as contained in the will. However, there can be exceptions, as when they had a trust or named a different beneficiary on a life insurance policy.

When there is not a will, then the administrator will follow the prescribed New York State estate administration distribution guidelines.

Amazing Manhattan skyline aerial view with Empire State Building.

The discovery of estate assets process follows somewhat similar steps whether an executor or administrator is tasked with closing an estate in NY. Please keep in mind this is a general overview of the discovery of estate asset process and should not be construed as actual legal advice.

It is highly recommended you consult with a qualified New York State estate lawyer like Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. if you have further questions or need assistance with the discovery of estate assets process.

To schedule a consultation appointment in Jamaica, Queens, Brooklyn, New York City or Manhattan, please call 718-276-6656 today!

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