Adjusting to the death of a loved one can be a very difficult process. This article is provided to help you deal with the problems and processes surrounding a death in the easiest and simplest manner possible.
Although some major decisions are unavoidable at this time, many can be put off until you are feeling less vulnerable. When a death has occurred, there is usually a need to administer the estate of the decedent. Every estate should be considered unique and not all estates will have administrative duties. Some small estates, under particular circumstances, will not even require administration.
If there are multiple beneficiaries or heirs, make every effort to keep them informed of your actions on their behalf and consult with them, if possible, especially where there is no Will.
The responsibility will be great and the anxiety will remain for months but through careful planning, expert advice and family support, you can resolve the duties in a manner that will provide you with personal satisfaction.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a legal counsel or an accountant, which should be sought on specific manners. It has been provided by the Tribute Foundation of the New York State Funeral Directors Association.
After the Funeral, Now What
You will need several copies of certified death certificates. The easiest way to obtain a copy is to ask the funeral director for assistance. The cost of each copy varies by county; $10 to $30 each.
Caring for the Deceased’s Property:
When a person dies, it is important to account for the deceased person’s property, making sure it is safe and protected. If the person lived alone, make arrangements to stop newspaper deliveries and have mail forwarded or held at the post office for daily pickup.
The matter of who will inherit the deceased’s property is determined by the estate planning arrangements that were made by the person during their lifetime.
Immediate Financial Concerns
At some point after the funeral, there will be financial concerns that will need to be dealt with. Listed below are some of the items you should expect will need to be handled:
Transfer of Estate Property
Probate is the technical, legal term for distribution of the deceased person’s estate under the supervision of the court. It is designed to protect all those who have an interest in the deceased’s property, such as immediate family, joint tenants, creditors and the taxing authorities.
Is Probate Necessary?
In many cases, probate proceedings are not necessary to transfer property of the deceased to persons entitled to it. Depending on a variety of factors, probate may be necessary or preferable. Consultation with a legal advisor is recommended. The probate procedures in New York State are relatively simple and in most cases require very little court intervention.
Appointment of an Executor or Administrator.
This person takes charge of the property, its distribution, and the filing of necessary papers in Court. Often times, an Executor is named in the Will. If there is no Will, the Court will usually appoint a surviving spouse or relative to serve as Administrator of the decedent’s Estate.
Provide proof to the Probate Court that the Will is valid and is the last Will of the deceased.
Provide written notice of probate proceedings to all known distributes and beneficiaries.
Give actual notice of the deceased’s death to the U.S. Social Security Administration and any other state, private agency, or company that the decedent may have been receiving periodic payments from their lifetime.
After all these steps have been taken, the Court will issue letters Testamentary to the Executor of the Estate and the Executor can do whatever is necessary to then administer the estate in accordance with the decedent’s Will. That includes appraising property, investing and managing assets, paying creditors, filing and paying taxes, and transferring assets.
File receipts and releases from the beneficiaries and a report that the Estate has been fully distributed with the Court once the process is concluded and all the steps have been completed.
Estates Under $20,000
As long as real property is not involved, New York State Law allows for the transfer of small estates by a Voluntary Administrator to either beneficiaries named in the decedent’s Will or if there is no Will, to the decedent’s intestate distributes as long as:
- they are entitled to the estate;
- notification is given to all distributes; and…
- these conditions are met:
- The estate is under $20,000 exclusive of joint bank accounts, trust accounts, U.S. Savings Bonds POD, and jointly owned personal property.
- No probate proceeding is pending.
- All decedent’s valid debts have been satisfied.
- All estate debts paid.
If all these conditions are met, the Voluntary Administrator must submit a completed, signed and notarized affidavit affirming that these steps have or will be taken. The Court then issues a certificate which allows the transfer of assets to the Voluntary Administrator so that expenses and debts can be paid and then distribution of the remaining assets made to the beneficiaries or distributees.
Property held in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship usually can be transferred after a few requisites are met. These may include furnishing a copy of the death certificate and if the decedent died after February 1, 2000, and the estate is OVER $675,000, proof that no federal or state taxes are due.
Even though a death has occurred, taxes are still due by the April 15 deadline. An extension can be requested from the IRS and NY State if all the information needed is not readily available.
Further information can be obtained from the IRS taxpayer information services listed under US Internal Revenue Service in your telephone directory and the NY State Department of Taxation and Finance.
Property taxes are also due at the same time and in the same manner as if the deceased person was still alive. Contact the local treasurer’s office in the City, Town, or Village where the decedent resided for more information on property taxes.
The federal government assesses a tax based on the deceased person’s estate. In most cases, a federal estate tax return has to be filed only if the federal estate tax return has to be filed only if the total value of the deceased person’s estate exceeds $675,000 (for person’s dying after February 1, 2000) increasing periodically to $1,000,000 in 2006. If the Estate is required to file a federal and/or New York State tax return, they must be filed and all taxes paid within nine months of the date of death. The tax will be based on the following:
- All property in the decedent’s name alone at the time of death
- Large gifts made immediately prior to death unless gift tax returns were previously filed and any applicable tax paid.
- Life insurance proceeds, unless ownership was transferred more than three years prior to death or the decedent never actually owned the policy.
- The value of the decedent’s interest in jointly or co-owned property.
The “Marital Deduction”
The value of most property which passes to a surviving spouse is deducted from the value of the estate. It would be wise to check with the IRS and a financial advisor for more information. Contact your local IRS office for more information and the appropriate forms.
Helpful Telephone Numbers
New York State Tax Information: 1-800-225-5829
NY State Division of Veteran Affairs: 1-888-838-7697
NY State Crime Victims Board: 1-800-247-8035
NY State Department of Labor: 1-518-457-3584
Medicaid: (Contact the local Department of Social & Health Services Office. Look under New York State in your phone book.)
Social Security Information: 1-800-772-1213
Federal Tax Information and Assistance: 1-800-829-1040