What Happens To Your Estate If You Die Without a Will

When an individual passes away without having a valid will in place, they’re deemed by the law to have died interstate—which means that the administration and distribution of their estate will be done in accordance with the legislation.

drafting a will

On the other hand, when you have a will, you can dictate the distribution of your estate and appoint an executor of choice who ensures your wishes are carried out.

Who Administers Your Estate When You Die Without A Will?

When an individual passes away interstate, and leave behind an estate that needs an administrator, an eligible person must has to apply with the Court for Letters of Administration. Whoever’s granted the Letters of Administration becomes the estate’s legal representative.

The following is a list of people who’re deemed eligible by the court to be an estate’s administrators:

  • The spouse of the deceased
  • The children of the deceased
  • The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the deceased
  • The parent or parents of the deceased
  • The deceased’s siblings
  • The grandparent or grandparents of the deceased
  • The decease’s aunts and uncles
  • The first cousins of the deceased
  • Anyone else appointed by the court

When applying to become an estate’s administrator, each individual who has priority over the applicant has to be “cleared of the record.” For instance, if you’re the son/daughter of the deceased who’s applied for the letters of administration, the court will first ensure that the deceased didn’t have a spouse at the time of death.

If You Pass Away Without a Valid Will, Who Will Your Estate Go To?

The distribution of an interstate estate primarily depends upon the deceased’s circumstances. According to the Succession Act (Qld) of 1981, the estate of a deceased person will be bequeathed to their closest next of kin, with the spouse and the children getting first priority. If the deceased was married, but childless, then the spouse will inherit the entire estate.

If the deceased was married with children, then:

  • If the estate’s worth is less than $150,000, then the spouse will inherit the entire estate
  • If the estate’s worth exceeds $150,000 (excluding household goods), the spouse will inherit the $150,000 plus all the household goods, and 50% of the rest of the estate (if there’s one child), and 33% of the rest of the estate (if there are more than two children).

Ledwidge & Associates, P.C., is a leading legal firm that assists clients across New York with estate planning, Family Law Services Brooklyn and Family Law Attorney Queens, divorce, and probate law. If you require our services, get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation.

Executor’s Commission: What It Is & How It Works

For many, taking up the role of an executor of state would be something honorable. The position is often assigned to a family member or friend of a deceased person who was close and trustworthy to the deceased person. That being the case, the role used to be entirely voluntary and was not something you got compensated for. After all, it was something you were doing for a loved one who had passed away.

This, however, is no longer the case when dealing with estates. With estates and assets becoming more complex, as well as the laws that affect them, a payment for the executor has been established as a way to pay the person dealing with the process. This payment is referred to as an executor’s commission.

A signed document with a pen

How Much Commission Does an Executor Get?

Executor commissions and payments are usually not a pre-set amount. There are a few factors that come into play when deciding how much compensation an executor will get for their work. These often include whether a fee had been mentioned in the will, what percentage the state law says can be given as commission, and if a court decides to apply reasonable compensation, an hourly rate that seems fair for the work.

If there are more than one executors assigned to handling the estate, then the amount may either be divided amongst them, or both may get full and equal compensation, depending on the size of the estate itself.

Executor Payments in New York

For executors in New York, there’s a percentage calculation that usually ends up deciding how much commission an executor will get. Once the will has been looked over by a probate attorney and the estate and all its assets have been valued, you’ll be able to get a percentage of that amount as your commission.

State laws dictate that an executor will get a minimum of 5% if the estate is worth 100,000 dollars. The percentage then drops with each increase in amount, giving 4% on a total of 300,000 dollars, 3% on 1 million dollars, and then finally 2% on values of over 5 million dollars.

People in suits talk to each other

Executor Payments as a Beneficiary

If you’re the executor of an estate but are also one of the beneficiaries of the will, you must be smart about dividing up the payments. The inheritance you get is tax-free, but the commission you get is taxed.

To make sure you end up with the best possible outcome, you should get the help of legal professionals like Ledwidge and Associates. Along with their executor services, they have probate attorneys and estate law attorney Queens and estate law attorney Brooklyn who can help you speed the entire settlement process.

3 Key Reasons You Should Create an Estate Plans for Your Future

When we talk about estate planning, many people immediately associate it with the ultra-rich. However, contrary to popular belief, anyone can benefit from having an estate plan no matter what their net worth is. According to Forbes, only 42% of the adults in the United States currently have an estate plan such as a living trust or a will.

A note on paper with a fountain pen

While end-of-life planning can be depressing and seem morbid, it is essential to protect you, your assets, and your loved ones after you die. If you haven’t started drafting your estate planning documents yet, consider the following reasons why it is essential to talk to an estate law attorney as soon as possible to get the process started:

Avoid Complications

If a person dies without an estate plan, the matter of distribution of assets is passed on to the courts who handle everything from the distribution of the property, the dissolution of the business, and the guardianship of the children. The process is known as probate, and it can get seriously complicated and expensive. By preparing the documentation in advance, you can save your family and loved ones from numerous complications and legal issues after your death.

A parent walking with their child on a beach

Keep Your Children from Ending Up in Child Protective Services

It might be unpleasant to think about your death, but it is essential to take some time and consider what would happen to your children if you suddenly died. Where will they end up? Who will take care of them?

If you don’t have an estate plan that clearly mentions a guardian that you have chosen, your children will end up with Child Protective Services, while the courts decide the best candidate to be their legal guardians. The process can take a long time, and your kids could end up with someone who would be your last choice for a guardian. Staying with protective services for a long time can also have a negative emotional impact on your child during a very vulnerable time in their life.

Avoid Disputes

Not everyone cares about what happens to their wealth and assets after they have passed. However, not leaving an estate plan can result in huge disputes between family members regarding who gets what. This can create strong feelings of ill will between relatives and even break up families. By planning your estate documents, you save your family from making difficult decisions and eliminate the risk of any disputes by making the decision for them.

Get Legal Advice from Leading Estate Lawyers In New York

One of the best ways to avoid complications with your estate after your death is to hire an experienced estate lawyer to draw up the correct documents for you.

Ledwidge & Associates P.C. offers the services of leading estate law attorney Queens, estate law attorney Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and the Bronx. We can help you protect your assets from exorbitant inheritance tax and ensure that your loved ones will be well taken care of through living wills and detailed estate planning documents.

Schedule a free case evaluation by calling us at 718-276-6656 and let us help you plan for your future!

Common Probate Issues

A probate lawyer in New York helping a client with the estate planning process.

According to Forbes, the COVID-19 crisis has forced US citizens to consider estate planning more seriously. As the crisis’s volatility continues to impact our everyday lives, wealth transfer has become more common.

Before you get down to business and start writing your will, here are a few problems that you might face in New York:

Will Contests

A will contest is a legal effort made to invalidate a will. Anyone can contest a will if it’s believed to be procured by fraud or forgery. You can also challenge a will if you have reasonable grounds to believe that the testator lacked the mental capacity to write a will or was made to sign it under duress. A will can also be invalidated if it’s outdated, and a more recent version of it exists or if it isn’t compliant with the state laws.

However, you can’t contest a will just because you don’t like its provisions and terms. Other than that, you also must be directly affected by its outcome to challenge it. A legal heir or a beneficiary can only contest the will. After a will is successfully contested, the court invalidates the entire will, instead of a single provision.

In either case, it’s not easy to contest a will because the entire process also translates into court expenses. Only an experienced probate attorney can simplify the process for you.

There Is No Written Will

This shouldn’t surprise you. 68% of Americans currently don’t have a written will. Dying ‘intestate’ will only complicate the matters for their surviving descendants. According to the state laws, when someone dies without a will, the court decides how the estate will be distributed.

When a New York resident dies without a will and no children, the surviving spouse usually inherits the estate. If there are more legal heirs, the surviving spouse only gets $50,000, and the rest is divided among the descendants. If there is no spouse, the entire estate is inherited by the descendants.

This is a problem because you might not want your estate to pass on to your surviving spouse, especially if you’re not on good terms. A large number of Americans prefer leaving their estate to charities. Your wishes will only be honored if you have a written will.

A deceased individual’s last will

The Executor Isn’t Carrying out Their Duties Well

An executor is the individual chosen to oversee the probate and honor the deceased’s wishes. Your chosen executor can step down from the role or choose not to have a say in how the estate is distributed. This usually happens when they take upon the duty without realizing the gravity of the responsibilities and pull out later. In this case, the court will check if you name a successor executor. If there isn’t one, the judge will appoint an estate administrator to carry out the probate duties.

With the right probe representations, none of these problems are too big. If you’re based in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Queens, The Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. can help you out! Joseph Ledwidge Attorney  has around 20 years of experience in helping clients deal with complicated probate cases. Reach out for a free consultation.

When Is Probate Not Necessary In New York?

A trustee signing a living trust and helping a property holder avoid probate

When you’re planning your estate, your goal should be to spare your family and legal heirs the hassle as much as you can. The probate court proceedings could be very extensive, costly, and complicated. If you’re based in New York, here’s when you can avoid probate:

Joint Ownership

If you jointly owned property with your deceased spouse, the probate process won’t apply if you had ‘rights of survivorship.’ In this case, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the owner after one of the owners passes away. However, you still might need to present some paperwork to the court to prove that the surviving owner now holds the property.

  • Joint tenancy: You’re called a joint tenant if you and your partner (married or not) own an equal share of the property. Joint tenancy applies to real estate, bank accounts, valuables, and vehicles.
  • Tenancy by the entirety: Unlike joint tenancy, this form of ownership is only applicable to married couples if their real estate is co-owned.

The last will of an individual

Payable-On-Death

A POD designation (payable-on-death designation) applies to bank accounts, certificates of deposits, and savings accounts in New York. Under this system, you have full control and full rights over the money in your accounts until your death. After your death, the same right passes on to the beneficiary automatically without going through the court proceedings.

Transfer-On-Death

Transfer-on-death or TOD applies to your securities and financial assets. You can register your brokerage accounts, bonds, and stocks in a TOD form in New York. You also need to name a beneficiary in the same form. The designated beneficiary will automatically inherit your financial investments after your death. Instead of going through the probate proceedings, the beneficiary will directly deal with the brokerage company.

According to the state law of New York, TOD deeds don’t apply to vehicles or real estate.

Living Trust

Any assets placed in a living trust don’t need to go through probate. You can hold almost any asset in a living trust, including bank accounts, real estate, and vehicles. All you need to do is create a trust document, assign a successor trustee, and transfer your estate ownership to the trust. After this point, the property’s ownership will be controlled in terms of the trust. After your death, the successor trustee can transfer the assets to the trust beneficiaries without court proceedings.

The Law Offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. helps families simplify the probate process in Brooklyn, Queens, and Jamaica. Joseph Ledwidge attorney has around 20 years of experience in dealing with the most complicated probate cases.

Speak with us for a free consultation.

 

Probate vs. Non-Probate: What Is the Difference?

When a loved one has passed on, you will inevitably need to begin the work of settling their estate, which will involve going through the probate process with a Queens probate lawyer. In order to ensure your loved one’s property is distributed properly, it’s necessary to understand the difference between probate vs. non-probate assets.

Last Will Document and Fountain Pen

What Is Probate?

The probate process proves the validity of a will before a Surrogate’s Court in the county where the deceased was living. Once the court accepts the will, the assets contained in that will can be distributed. However, before this can happen, the relatives of the deceased need to be called to court and given the opportunity to contest the will with a New York probate attorney if they feel they were unfairly treated.

Probate Assets

Probate assets are those which are owned only by the deceased. These assets include items that are in their name alone, such as bank accounts, titled or held property, and life insurance policies.

Probate assets also include any interest the deceased may have had in a company, whether it was a limited liability, corporation, or partnership. Personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, and furniture are also considered to be probate assets by New York probate law.

Non-Probate Assets

Non-probate assets are those which are not solely in the deceased’s name. These assets include retirement, brokerage, and life insurance accounts which list a name other than the deceased’s as the beneficiary. Any property that’s held in a trust qualifies as a non-probate asset, as does property held in its entirety by tenants or in a joint tenancy.

A major difference between probate and non-probate assets is that the deceased’s will does not control how non-probate assets are distributed. Where the deceased has named one or more specific beneficiaries for non-probate items, those items will be distributed directly to these named individuals. Non-probate items without a named beneficiary may default to the estate of the deceased so that those assets can be distributed according to terms laid out in their will.

Probate Can Be a Complex Process

Unfortunately, the New York probate process sometimes becomes a difficult and complex process to navigate when family members contest the will of a loved one, or the settlement of a loved one’s assets places a significant financial burden on the executor.

Even jointly owned accounts can be challenged, which can complicate matters even further, not to mention cause division within the family. This can all add more negativity to an already difficult situation.

Handshake between attorneys and clients

With a strong focus on probate and estate administration law, the law offices of Joseph A. Ledwidge PC represent executors, fiduciaries, heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties. Possessing a combined 32 years of experience, our attorneys understand the value and importance of providing clients with attentive service and manageable fees.

Your result matters. If you need help navigating the New York probate process of a loved one, call (718) 276-6656 to be put in touch with an experienced Queens probate lawyer.