Let Our Lawyers Help You With Your Duties As A Personal Representative
If you’ve been named as the executor in a loved one’s will, or appointed as administrator for the estate of someone who died intestate, there are complex legal tasks that must be handled correctly and within statutory deadlines. At Dumont & Watson, P.C., we deliver comprehensive legal support to personal representatives at every stage of the probate or estate administration process. By working with an experienced attorney, you can avoid errors that might unnecessarily deplete estate assets or worse, trigger legal liability.
A Basic Overview Of The Personal Representative’s Probate Duties
Probate is the process in which property is transferred from an owner who has recently died to the heirs designated in their will or the recipients mandated under the state’s intestacy law. This process is supervised by the Orphans’ Court in the decedent’s county of residence. Our firm is here to give you the assistance you need to complete the following critical tasks:
- Open a probate case – The person named as executor must file the petition for probate. Without a valid will, someone close to the deceased individual must serve as the administrator of their estate. When the executor or administrator is appointed as the estate’s personal representative, they receive letters testamentary from the Register of Wills which authorize them to act on the estate’s behalf.
- Contact heirs and publishing notices – The personal representative must publish official notice of the decedent’s passing in two newspapers so creditors have the opportunity to collect debts owed to them. Our firm handles this important task as well as notices to individuals and organizations named as estate beneficiaries.
- File tax returns – In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, inheritance tax is handled differently. In Pennsylvania, inheritance tax is complex and part of almost every probate matter. In New Jersey there are no estate taxes if you are leaving money to children or grandchildren, but the State imposes Inheritance Tax if you leave money to someone other than direct descendants, such as siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews or friends. As your attorneys, we will guide you through the process so you know exactly what to expect and what needs to be done.
- Manage financial matters – Once the probate matter is opened, the personal representative is required to submit an inventory of the estate’s assets and expenditures to the court. During probate, bills and property taxes must be paid and careful records must be kept in anticipation for the final accounting that is made available to heirs and the court.
- Sell the decedent’s real estate – Property transactions can be very complicated, but we can help you prepare a decedent’s home for sale by identifying businesses that make repairs, clean, remove trash, buy furniture and even auction valuable belongings.
- Distribute estate assets – After the decedent’s assets are all brought into the estate and outstanding debts are paid off, the final accounting can occur and, absent objection, the estate assets can be distributed to the rightful heirs. We will draft a Family Settlement Agreement detailing what each heir is to receive. Once executed, these documents safeguard against potential lawsuits alleging mismanagement of funds.
Our attorneys assist clients with each aspect of probate, including situations where disputes exist over the allocation of the decedent’s property. Whatever particular challenges are associated with an estate, we offer comprehensive advice to personal representatives.
Utilizing Tax Planning To Preserve Estate Assets
Our office funds the tax planning devices put in place by the decedent, including credit shelter trusts and testamentary trusts for children. We recommend ways to ensure tax savings and discounts on inheritance taxes, and we assist in preserving the trust and estate assets. Even if the decedent failed to do any tax planning, we can advise clients with respect to certain post-mortem estate tax planning to maximize tax savings techniques.
How Long Does The Probate Process Take?
The probate process usually runs between six months and a year. Even if there are no serious disputes or complications, it takes time to provide the required notices, bring property into the estate, pay off the decedent’s obligations and obtain approval from the court to finalize the distribution of assets to the designated heirs. Drawing on decades of experience, our firm helps clients avoid common obstacles and works to settle the estate as promptly and efficiently as possible.
Contact Us For Experienced Advice And Knowledgeable Guidance
At Dumont & Watson, P.C., our attorneys provide knowledgeable counsel to personal representatives on the probate process and other estate matters. You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling 609-991-7707 or by contacting us online. We have offices in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and Princeton and Red Bank, New Jersey.