A death in the family is stressful under the best circumstances, but having to deal with legal matters only makes things worse. Your estate planning attorney can mitigate much of the legal stress surrounding an expected or unexpected death, as they will have addressed any estate issues, including drawing up the last will or trust.
But what happens if a family doesn’t have a dedicated estate lawyer or has been lax in planning for the future? While it’s possible to handle probate and estate administration without legal guidance, having a probate attorney on hand can dramatically reduce the time and stress associated with the legal aspects of death in the family.
What Does a Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Do?
Probate refers to the legal process of estate administration that occurs when someone dies. For individuals without a will, the estate administration process involves having the court inventory all of the deceased’s assets and divide them as indicated by New York State Law, which may not result in the most equitable or harmonious solution. Even for individuals with a will, the probate process can still be lengthy and complex, as it requires the last will and testament to go through court followed by accounting and distibuting the assets within the estate. Many estate attorneys strongly recommend their clients write a will as the minimum precaution to potentially speed the process up and document their wishes. Keep in mind that a will, no matter how detailed, does not avoid probate.
A probate attorney is a lawyer who administers an estate after an individual’s passing. This administration starts with inventorying the deceased’s assets and getting the needed documents from the court, such as Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. The estate administration attorney can help with distributing those assets, ideally according to the deceased’s wishes. While it sounds simple on paper, the process may take several months or even years to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate.
Reasons to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney for Probate Concerns
1. Protect the Estate
Legal claims against a deceased’s estate are surprisingly common and can be a traumatic experience for those left behind. A probate lawyer works to uphold the deceased’s wishes and protect the heirs accordingly.
Nothing is worse than trying to grieve the loss of a loved one and finding out about a claim against the estate. Hiring a probate lawyer to deal with these claims reduces the anxiety of dealing with an unknown process and the stress of potentially losing one’s inheritance.
2. Avoid Potential Delays in Probate
Probate can be an extremely lengthy process. In New York, probate proceedings involve filing paperwork with the Surrogate’s Court, paying the necessary filing fee, inventorying the estate, paying any outstanding debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining estate according to the will (or intestacy laws, if the deceased didn’t have a will).
This process can be very complex and may take several years to resolve without the assistance of an attorney, especially if any claims exist against the estate. Some individuals may choose to do this complicated process on their own; however, any errors could cause a lengthy process to take even longer. In addition, a probate attorney can advise you during the process to help your family avoid potential errors that could have far-reaching legal consequences.
3. Support Heirs and Executors
Many executors don’t fully understand how to effectively discharge their responsibilities and having an estate planning attorney can help alleviate many of these concerns.
Legal teams can assist the executor with court filings, debt and tax settlements, estate appraisal, and releasing the inheritance, ensuring that the executor avoids potential pitfalls that might result in legal liability.
4. Promote Family Harmony
Few families are completely conflict-free, and a loss often brings out strong emotions and buried resentments and conflicts. One or more family members may have different expectations on the division of the estate, which can drag out the probate process and result in months of stress and conflict.
Having a neutral, objective probate attorney can defuse many emotionally fraught situations. Most estate attorneys understand their client’s family dynamics and can navigate them effectively to prevent as much conflict as possible. An attorney’s detachment is invaluable and ensures that they can clearly convey and uphold the deceased’s wishes. Working with an attorney with a practice area in estate planning and probate allows the family to deal with their grief and loss.
5. Manage Taxes and Debts
Expected and unexpected debts that follow in the wake of a loved one’s death are the last thing that grieving survivors want to face. Medical bills, funeral expenses, state and federal taxes, insurance fees, bank charges, and similar invoices can be some of the claims that are presented for payment throughout the probate process. A probate attorney is well-versed in the types of debts that typically arise during probate, and can advise the heirs on how and when to pay bills with estate funds.
Regarding state and federal tax claims, the family will find reassurance in a knowledgeable probate lawyer, who can explain tax issues and represent the heirs to tax officials. If taxes are owed, a probate attorney can ensure that the estate is not overcharged by the government.
About Jay P. Sheryll, Esq.
Jay and his team help their clients leave a legacy and achieve the peace of mind of knowing that they can protect their families if something happens to them. Sheryll Law, P.C., understands that their clients have worked hard to build their legacy. It is their pleasure to help them leave their money to their loved ones according to their wishes. Having observed other firms haphazardly draft wills and throw together some powers-of-attorney without any thought to the planning aspect, Jay realized he could fulfill a need for East End Long Island clients.
Contact Sheryll Law, P.C., for Your Probate and Estate Administration Needs
The estate planning and probate attorneys at Sheryll Law, P.C., can handle all your estate administration duties, beginning with inventorying the assets and ending with distributing property to the rightful beneficiaries. Our experienced legal team will ensure the estate is administered as seamlessly and stress-free as possible. Ready to secure your future and the future of your loved ones? Contact us at (631) 506-8440 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.
Copyright © 2022. Sheryll Law, P.C. All rights reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.