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.

Debt and Probate: What You Need to Know

A sample of last will and testament with a section about debt payment.

Most people have their legacies, properties, and assets on their minds when drafting their Testament and Last Will. But several other things must be considered and specified in an estate plan.

For example, specifying what happens to your outstanding debts or those of a loved one after they pass away is crucial. If you owed a loan or debt in your lifetime, your family will be responsible for paying for it, depending on your estate’s size and value and the type of the loan.

Is it important to notify creditors?

After a person passes away, their estate executor is responsible for informing the person or institution that provided the debt. While the trust doesn’t mandate that the executors notify the creditors of the debtor’s passing away, doing so will allow the creditors to come forward within a shorter period, and the payment process will be smoother. Once the creditors are notified, they are given a specified period to claim their takings against the estate. Each creditor will be paid for their part from the estate’s proceeds.

If the deceased person didn’t create an estate plan during their lifetime, the probate court then assigns an administrator, who is typically from the immediate family or a close relative. Like a trustee or an executor, an administrator appointed by the court is also authorized to pay the deceased person’s debts from the estate’s takings.

What if two persons are responsible for debt?

A sample of last will and testament with a section about debt payment.

In most mortgage cases, couples usually apply together. In this case, the surviving spouse or loan co-signer will be responsible for paying the debts. However, the probate court considers several factors before determining that the living partner should be paying for the joint debts. In some cases, selling the estate is enough to repay all the deceased’s outstanding debts, while in others, loan providers may settle on an amount lesser than the original debt.

 

A loved one’s death isn’t only emotionally turbulent, but it often also brings complicated financial and legal issues with it. An experienced and reliable probate attorney Queens or probate attorney Brooklyn can help you through each step of the process, from contesting and probating the will to removing an executor or administrator, ensuring complete protection of your rights.

If you’re looking for an experienced probate attorney in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, or other NYC areas, get in touch with the law office of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. today!

Why You Need a Probate Lawyer to Figure Out Your Estates NOW

an old man on a bench

Okay, maybe we went a little overboard with the NOW, but you do need a probate lawyer—sooner better than later. One day you will need your estates, assets, and other particulars to be sorted out.

Imagine not taking the right step at the right time for your posthumous affairs and all potential candidates end up fighting among themselves.  But this isn’t Game of Thrones—and you have probate lawyers who can help you with the entire legal process.

What a Probate Lawyer Does

As a legal representative who has been licensed by the state to advise you on your legal particulars, probate lawyers can smoothen out an otherwise drawn-out process. If you die without a will, this complicates things for a probate lawyer.

rows upon rows of law books

Whether you need help with securing and assessing states or writing your will, a probate lawyer is there for you. Seniors usually find it hard to deal with the hassles involved in a legal process. There’s too much paperwork and jargon to deal with. A probate lawyer means you don’t need to worry about these trifles now. You can go about your affairs while your lawyer will take care of the more complicated matters.

Everything We Take Care Of

If you think helping you write your will is the only thing probate lawyers help you with, think again. There’s a lot more that goes into the process, including:

  • File your will with the relevant local court
  • Procure appraisals for your property and other assets
  • File tax returns for deceased clients
  • Identify and determine beneficiaries
  • Help resolve any disputes related to your assets

Overall, a process that is otherwise difficult and even bitter for you becomes easier. You don’t have to worry about ensuring you’re making the right choices and not meting out anyone any wrongs. It’s the lawyer’s job now.

Creditors, Beneficiaries, and Others

The beneficiaries will have questions. In the rare off-chance that everyone gets along (and people rarely do), you might have an easier time. Most of these cases, however, require legal counsel to make the process easier.

Usually, beneficiaries are often concerned about things that, if resolved now, won’t become an obstacle later on. Your lawyer can keep these beneficiaries in the loop by regularly sending them letters and emails. Any questions that they have can be sorted out right now. If you are sending these communications yourself (as many clients opt to do), you can ask your probate lawyer to go over them for you.

Where Can You Find a Probate Lawyer?

Where else but right here? Reach out to our associates at the Law Offices of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. You can plan a consultation with a  Probate lawyer Brooklyn, Probate lawyer Queens in person if you’re in New York. We operate in the Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and Bronx areas.

 

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.

 

An Estate Planning Checklist for Beginners

A house in Brooklyn passed on to a beneficiary through a probate

Preparing for the end of your life sounds challenging, but it’s something that you should do, notwithstanding. Having a well-thought-out will is not just essential for seniors but for the youth too. Life is uncertain. The best you can do for your children is to plan your estate carefully and intelligently.

Let’s cover the basics of estate planning:

Make a list of your belongings.

To get started with your estate planning, you need to begin to itemize your inventory or belongings. This may take a few days. Grab a paper and pen and start looking around for all the tangible and intangible assets you own. After you’ve enlisted the assets, you should also mention their estimated market value, date of purchase, purchase price, appraisal and valuation reports, and the number of years it’s been with you.

Your tangible assets may include real estate, property, homes, precious metals, ornaments, jewelry, antique collectibles, trading cards, cars, motorcycles, and boats. Intangible assets mostly comprise your investments, receivables, and bank accounts. Common examples of intangible assets include retirement plans (IRAs), savings accounts, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, treasury bills, and business ownership. When you’re enlisting these items, write down account details and the company/institution where your investments are held.

Consider Your Family’s Needs.

Your estate planning will also revolve around some important family decisions. If your children are still young, you need to name a guardian and backup guardian (if the primary guardian doesn’t survive). This will ensure that your children are taken care of and help avoid costly court fights. You don’t need to assume that your immediate relatives will share your child-rearing goals. Document your childcare-related wishes as explicitly as you can.

If you’ve remarried and don’t name a guardian, the child’s custody automatically goes to the surviving biological parent. If you’re not on good terms with your ex-spouse and don’t want this to happen, specify it in the will.

A probate courthouse

Review the Beneficiaries.

When you’re writing your will, don’t leave any beneficiary sections blank. In this case, when the will goes through probate, the assets will be distributed according to the estate laws. We also recommend contingent beneficiaries that get the property if the primary beneficiary dies before you do.

If you’ve remarried, you might want to update the beneficiary list. Let’s say your ex-spouse is still a beneficiary on your life insurance policy; your current spouse will not get a penny from the policy payout. The same goes for your retirement account. Keep track of and update the beneficiary designations as needed.

The last step is to select an estate executor who will in charge of administering the last testament. Choose someone competent, responsible, and possesses good decision-making ability. Your spouse isn’t always the best choice, especially if losing you takes a toll on their emotional well-being.

If the process sounds complicated, we recommend seeking help from a well-qualified estate and probate lawyer. If you’re based in Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan, and are looking for Queens Probate lawyer or Brooklyn Probate lawyer there is no better option than the law office of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. We have over 20 years of experience in handling complex probate cases. You can contact online or give us a call at 347-395-4799 to arrange a consultation with an experienced New York probate attorney.

 

What Does Administering a Trust Involve?

Part of estate planning requires you to decide if you want a will, a trust, or both. Some people choose to have a will for specific items and a trust for others. There are benefits of having a trust in place beside or in addition to a will. To help you learn more about administering a trust and what is involved in a trust administration, it is important to know the basics about trusts.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal document that describes various properties, bank accounts, investments, and other such assets owned by a person. This person is called the Settlor when creating a trust. The Settlor designates what property and assets will be included in the trust and transferred to the trust administrator or Trustee.

The job of the Trustee is to administer the trust according to the instructions of the Settlor. The Trustee has specific requirements like ensuring they protect the property and assets of the Settlor until such time they are to be distributed after their death.

Are There Different Types of Trusts?

Financial Advisor Talking To Senior Couple At Home

Two general types of trusts exist in New York. A person can have a testamentary trust or a living trust. With a testamentary trust, the trust does not become active until the Settlor dies. With a living trust, the trust becomes active while they are still alive, once it is executed correctly. Administrating a trust also begins while the person is still alive when they create a living trust.  

In addition, there are two different types of living trusts: Irrevocable and Revocable. An irrevocable living trust is where the trust cannot be changed, amended, terminated, or modified without permission from the named beneficiary. Furthermore, any assets listed in an irrevocable trust are transferred out of the estate.

A revocable trust, on the other hand, retains the assets as part of the Settlor’s estate. This allows the Settlor the option to modify, change, terminate, or amend the trust anytime they desire. While the Settlor is alive, any income or other financial gains continue to be distributed to the Settlor as stipulated in the revocable trust. It is only after their death that the assets and money are distributed to the named beneficiaries.

How Does a Trustee Perform Trust Administration?

A Trustee can have several assigned responsibilities and duties to carry out for the Settlor long before they pass away. One of the most common reasons for family disputes and legal issues is because of improper trust administration by a Trustee.

Administering a trust requires more than just attempting to honor the wishes of the Settlor. A Trustee must also be prepared for:

• Asset Management and Protection
• Investing Trust Resources as Directed
• Trust Investment Management
• Managing Trust Distributions
• Maintaining Accurate Trust Records
• Adhering to the Terms of the Trust
• Maintaining Communications with the Settlor
• Maintaining Communications with Beneficiaries After the Settlor’s Death
• Handling Conflicts Between Beneficiaries
• Knowing When a Trust Has to Go Through the New York Probate Process
• Filing and Paying Any Required Taxes

Trust administration requires selecting the right Trustee. This is why most people retain the services of a New York probate attorney to act as their Trustee rather than a close family friend or relative.

Couple Discussing Paperwork With Financial Consultant

By retaining an attorney for administering a trust, they remain objective and can help alleviate any family disputes or other issues that could arise after your death. Additionally, they can offer sound legal estate, will planning, and trust administration advice to ensure your assets and property are protected and distributed according to your intentions.

For further information about trusts and assistance in creating one, please feel free to contact Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today!