Probate and Estate Administration – An Overview
Administration of a decedent’s estate involves, among other things, probating the estate, collection of the decedent’s assets, calculation and payment of estate taxes, and the distribution of remaining assets. An attorney who is competent and experienced in probate and estate administration can facilitate this often difficult process in a timely and effective manner. If you need help in the administration of an estate, call an attorney today.
Probating the Estate
An estate is the total property owned by a deceased individual (the decedent) prior to the distribution of that property in accordance with the terms of a will, or, when there is no will, by the laws of inheritance in the state where the decedent lived. Probate is the court procedure by which:
The will is proved to be valid or invalid.
The property covered by the will is shown to be the decedent’s.
If there is no will, it is determined how the property is to be distributed, in accordance with the inheritance laws of the state where the decedent lived.
Unpaid creditors of the decedent are given the opportunity to file claims against the estate.
Fees for administration of the estate are approved and paid.
The probate assets of the estate are distributed.
Before the property can be distributed, it is generally necessary to go through probate, or, in the case of smaller estates, a less formal procedure under the general supervision of the probate court.
Preserving Estate Assets
An important but sometimes neglected responsibility in administering an estate is to look for opportunities to preserve assets for distribution. Reducing estate taxes is one way that an estate can retain more of its wealth for the decedent’s heirs. Some of the ways to accomplish this are:
Consider whether administration expenses and casualty losses should be reported on the estate tax return or on the estate’s income tax return.
Consider whether there are income tax savings opportunities on the decedent’s final return (such as whether or not a joint income tax return should be filed with the surviving spouse).
Consider whether assets should be valued at the date of the decedent’s death or six months later (or, if assets have been distributed prior to six months after the decedent’s death, the date of the disposition of the assets).
Guiding an estate through the probate process and effectively administering that estate so that every opportunity for preserving value for distribution requires a keen understanding of the probate and tax laws. If you need help in administering an estate, contact an attorney experienced in probate and estate administration to ensure that the most effective administration of the estate.