My Loved One Passed Away. Now What?

My Loved One Passed Away. Now What?Before we get into the nuances of the legal process you’ll have to go through, we do want to extend our deepest condolences. Losing someone you love is indescribably difficult. 

At some point, you or someone else must begin the legal process of settling the decedent’s estate (assets and property owned by the decedent). In New York, this process is almost always referred to as either “probate” or “administration.” Both processes end with the closing of a decedent’s estate. However, the assets of those who passed away with a valid Last Will and Testament will pass through probate. Passing away without a Will in New York means the estate will go through administration

Step 1: Locate the Will. 

The Will is not the first legal document you will need to present after your loved one passes away, but it will largely determine how the legal process will go. Before you find your loved one’s Will, you must file a petition with the appropriate Surrogate’s Court to open the estate. After you have filed this petition and the death certificate, the Court will examine the Will and determine its legitimacy. 

If your loved one passed away without a Will, you still need to file the Surrogate’s Court petition and death certificate to open the estate. That task, however, goes to the closest surviving family member in an administration proceeding. 

Step 2: Notify all relevant parties. 

Anyone named in the Will must be notified of the testator’s death. Testator, by the way, is the term for a decedent who left a valid Will. Similarly, anyone who stands to inherit under New York’s intestacy laws must also be notified if their loved one passes away. 

Barring any disagreements from heirs and other loved ones of the decedent—which is not uncommon—the Court will issue legal authority for someone to oversee the disposition of the decedent’s estate. Most Wills name an executor, who is the person that the decedent wants to oversee the legal process. In an administration proceeding, the court will need to appoint an administrator. 

Step 3: Keep tabs on the assets of the estate. 

Before the heirs can get their inheritances, the creditors must get their due. Tracking down known creditors of the decedent is a job for the executor or administrator. New York also requires that the decedent’s passing be announced in a newspaper, which gives unknown creditors a chance to claim what they believe they are owed. 

Step 4: Pay the heirs. 

If, after all the creditors and final expenses have been paid, the estate has a positive value, the executor or administrator will begin paying heirs. The decedent’s estate plan, which may include a Will and other documents, should stipulate how the assets should be distributed. In the absence of a Will or estate plan, the assets will be distributed based on New York’s intestacy laws.

Don’t Go Through the Process Alone

The last thing you want to ponder after a loved one’s death is a legal process. Unfortunately, the probate or administration process can easily get complicated and messy. No matter what the process looks like for you and your loved ones, having the right attorney makes all the difference. Ledwidge & Associates is prepared to efficiently guide you through the probate or administration process; get in touch with us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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My Loved One Passed Away. Now What?

Ledwidge & Associates

Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. in New York City has years of experience helping clients create estate plans that fit their needs. We have the experience and resources to handle your critical legal matters with the utmost care and attention to detail.
My Loved One Passed Away. Now What?

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