The Legal Dos and Don’ts of Real Estate

A well-maintained house surrounded by greenery

Buying and owning property is mostly an exciting and fulfilling life experience. The only aspects of it that can feel dry and boring are the legal ones, which include everything from drawing up the initial deed to including it in your final will to be passed on after your death.

Of all the things you include in your estate plan—life insurance, bank accounts, jewelry, art/collectibles, investments, and furniture—the most important is your property, be it a residential house or a vacation home, or even a rental property. For your loved ones to enjoy these the same even after your death, you need to make sure all the legalities are in place.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while handling real estate:

DO: Place the Vacation Home in A Revocable Trust

If you want the next generation to truly enjoy the vacation home without carrying the baggage of legalities and responsibilities they didn’t exactly sign up for, placing it in a trust should help.

Firstly, it would escape lengthy probate. Secondly, you can specify exactly how you want the vacation home to be used and maintained during and after your life with a trust. And most importantly, with smart estate planning—we’re talking Qualified Personal Residence Trust, of course—you could also save estate tax significantly.

A vacation home near a lake

DON’T: Skip Out on A Will

Making a will may seem like a hassle, especially because it isn’t really necessary to pass down real estate. However, legal experts highly recommend it because it makes the whole process ever so easier.

Without a will, your property will still get passed on to your immediate heirs and relatives based on the law in your state, but in case you want a say in who ends up with what exactly, making a will is the only way to do it.

Through a will, you can keep the property from being split up, divide it the way you wish, or even pass it down to someone outside the family.

DO: Get A Property Lawyer on Board

From the moment you purchase the property to the time of your death, you need professional expertise on how to go about its legal paperwork in order to keep things streamlined.

There are many different kinds of deeds, and you may not know the ins and outs of each kind, so having a property lawyer to reviews and prepare the deed with you is a good step. Similarly, when you’re including your real estate in the estate plan, you need to have legal counsel to ensure that the property can pass on to your loved ones with minimal legal hurdles after your death.

So, if you’re in the process of creating an estate plan, get the experts on board.

We’re a real property law firm Queens, and our Estate lawyer Queens  can help make complicated legal procedures easier for you.

Get in touch with us to learn more about our legal services.

Why You Can’t Sleep on Estate Planning

A person working on some documents

If you ask a person what they want to be remembered for when they’re gone, they’re most likely to say something sentimental like the memories of their loved ones or the legacy they’re leaving behind in the form of their children or their life’s work. But let’s be real. Continue reading “Why You Can’t Sleep on Estate Planning”

3 Mistakes Made During Estate Planning

Whether you have a large estate or a modest one, as the owner, you must settle all of your affairs while you still have the ability to do so. There are various issues and common mistakes that people make when it comes to estate planning. This blog will go over some of the issues to watch out for: Continue reading “3 Mistakes Made During Estate Planning”

3 Ways to Minimize Estate Planning Taxes

Estate taxes can balloon significantly, but certain techniques can always help you bring down the payable amount. These are within the legal parameters as well, so you can easily take them on without worrying. Here are some of the most commonly recommended ones: Continue reading “3 Ways to Minimize Estate Planning Taxes”

Protecting Yourself from Home Title Theft

Home title theft is a form of identity theft, and many people suffer from it every year. Scammers and thieves tend to keep an eye out for vacation homes, properties belonging to the deceased, and other vulnerable aspects of the home that they can exploit. Continue reading “Protecting Yourself from Home Title Theft”

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!