If you have lost a loved one and are now responsible for settling their estate, you may be feeling lost and overwhelmed about how to get started or what needs to be done. Large tasks like estate administration are not easy in the best of times, but completing the necessary tasks while struggling with grief can seem impossible.

Seitelman Law Offices, P.C. is here to help. Our goal is to make estate administration as simple as possible so our clients have the time to properly grieve their losses. If you are not ready to move forward with legal representation, we hope the information contained in this article can provide some clarification on the Manhattan estate administration process.

Introduction to Estate Administration Legal Terms

One of the most challenging parts of probate and estate administration is understanding the numerous legal terms and phrases that you will inevitably hear throughout the process. Here is a brief overview of some of the words you will likely hear during this time.

What is an Estate?

There are many different definitions for the term estate, but what does it mean in the context of New York estate administration? An estate is the property that a person owns upon their death and that needs to be settled through probate or other legal means. So, an estate’s meaning, in law, is the combination of assets and debts that you own.

What is Estate Administration?

Estate administration is the process of settling someone’s estate. It includes paying debts, identifying assets, filing the will with the court, and dispersing assets to beneficiaries. Administration is the term used for the process of settling an estate when someone passes away without a will.

What is Probate?

Probate is similar to estate administration in that its purpose is to settle the estate of a recently deceased person. The difference is that probate is the process that occurs when a valid will does exist.

What is a Decedent?

A decedent is the person who passed away. It is their estate that is going through probate and administration.

What Do Intestate and Testate Mean?

When someone dies testate, it means that they have a valid last will and testament. Dying intestate means no valid will exists.

What is an executor or personal representative?

An executor is the person named in the will that the decedent wanted to be responsible for probating their estate. A personal representative has essentially the same function, but this term is used more often when there is no valid will, and the court must appoint someone to fulfill this duty.

NY Estate Law

In addition to the probate and administration options, New York also has something called voluntary administration or small estate. If your loved one’s estate is valued at less than $50,000, filing a small estate is generally considered easier and less expensive than the other options. You also don’t need to worry about whether or not your family member had a will because that is not a factor in voluntary administration.

Estate and Inheritance Taxes in New York

New York does not have an inheritance tax, but there is an estate tax for some very large estates. The tax exemption amount for 2024 is $6.94 million. This means that only estates worth more than that are required to file a New York estate tax return. If the decedent’s estate is required to file, it must be completed within nine months of the decedent’s death. You can file for an extension if you don’t think that deadline is manageable.

There are other stipulations, such as property owned in New York by people who live out of state, but the estate tax only applies to a small percentage of people. If your loved one’s estate is required to file an estate tax return, it is highly recommended that you speak with an estate administration attorney to ensure all the requirements are met.

Federal Estate Taxes in New York

Estate worth more than $13.61 million must file federal estate taxes, as well. The value of the estate that is greater than $13.61 million is subject to federal estate taxes. If you need an extension for filing, it is a good idea to file for an extension as soon as possible. As long as you request the extension before the due date, it will be automatically approved for an additional six months.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has additional requirements for taxes on estates and property, and the numerous laws and stipulations can become confusing. Your estate administration attorney or tax professional are the best resources for guidance on these issues.

Categorizing and Distributing Property in New York

An estate’s property will be classified as either personal or real property. Real property includes houses, land, and any other piece of real estate. Personal property includes cars, antiques, cash, heirlooms, investments, and nearly every other item that someone can own.

New York’s inheritance laws do not follow a community property standard, which means a decedent’s spouse will not automatically inherit most of the property. If there is a will, the property will be distributed according to the decedent’s detailed preferences and wishes. However, when no valid will exists, the estate will be distributed according to New York succession laws.

The hierarchy of how property is granted to heirs can be tricky depending on which surviving family members the decedent has. For example, if there is a surviving spouse and adult children, the spouse receives $50,000 and half of the remaining value of the estate. The children inherit the rest. This division of property changes drastically if there is no spouse but children, or if there is no spouse or children, and so on.

Choosing an Estate Administration Attorney

If probate or estate administration is straightforward and no issues or conflicts arise, an attorney may not be necessary. However, for large estates, challenged wills, contested decisions, and any issues with taxes or debt, an attorney is a valuable asset to save you time and stress. Seitelman Law Offices, P.C. offers free consultations so you can determine if we are a good fit for each other. Contact us today to schedule your appointment with us.