The legal document called a last will or last will and testament is the most commonly used estate planning device. You can state your wishes regarding asset distributions in a will, but you should be aware of the estate administration process that will come into play.
When you create a last will, you name an executor or executrix. This is the person who will handle the business of the estate after you are gone. An executor is a male estate administrator, and an executrix is a female who has taken on the role.
The estate administrator cannot distribute assets to the heirs immediately after you pass away. The last will would be admitted to probate, and in New York, the Surrogate’s Court would supervise the administration of the estate.
During probate, there is a proving of the will. The court examines the document to make sure that it is valid, and witnesses who signed the will must be contacted unless it is a self proving will. You can create a self proving will if you bring the witnesses along with you to a notary and create a self proving affidavit to accompany the last will.
Final debts must be paid during the probate process, so creditors must be contacted. Taxes must be paid as well, so the executor will sometimes engage an accountant to assist.
The assets that comprise the estate must be identified and inventoried. In many cases, appraisals and liquidation will be necessary as the assets are being prepared for distribution to the heirs to the estate.
Ultimately, when the court closes the estate, the executor can distribute assets to the heirs that are named in the last will.
As you can see, there are many different tasks that must be completed after you are gone, so you should make sure that you choose an executor who is ready, willing, and able to handle the job. If you do not know anyone personally who would fit the bill, you could engage a professional fiduciary.
Learn More About Estate Administration
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Click the following link if you would like to build on your knowledge: Forbes Contributor Mark Eghrari.