Estate Administration and Probate

Upon one’s death, there are inherent legal formalities that must be fulfilled before the decedent’s estate may be settled and assets distributed. Addressing these issues can be especially trying for family members during such a difficult and emotional time. While many complications can be avoided through proper Estate Planning, even well-planned Estate Administration can be highly complex, work-intensive and time consuming. At Schanker and Hochberg, we understand, and we draw upon our vast experience to guide our clients through the process with the utmost sensitivity and service.

We prepare and file state and federal tax returns, if necessary. We advise the executor and trustee(s) of their responsibilities, and guide them through the tax decisions they must make. We represent accounting proceedings and appear on our clients’ behalf in all required Estate Administration and accounting litigation matters (which can range from simple Will contests to complex contested accounting proceedings). Our expertise also includes administering estates for which no previous planning has been done.

When an individual dies, certain of his or her assets that are not transferable by contract may be transferred through proceedings in Probate Court. Probate is expensive, time-consuming, and invasive to privacy because once probate is filed your Last Will and Testament is available for public inspection. Moreover, if you own real estate in more than one state, your estate will also be subject to probate proceedings in each of those states.

Schanker and Hochberg can help you avoid probate by using a revocable living trust to distribute assets, if all assets have been titled in the name of the trust at time of death. The death benefit of a life insurance policy, which is ordinarily included in the value of one’s estate for estate tax purposes, can be excluded by designating an irrevocable trust as owner and beneficiary of the policy. Additionally, substantial gifts may be made during your lifetime with minimal-to-no gift tax implication. To help you achieve these goals, we will arrange the proper assignments, transfers, and designations in accordance with your plan.

In cases where probate is unavoidable, our experience and expertise enable us to find significant opportunities to save estate taxes and to adjust for changes in circumstances after the execution of the decedent’s Will. We recognize these opportunities and counsel the personal representative and family members in how to take advantage of them, which may include disclaimers, tax elections and funding practices. The probate of an estate also provides an opportunity to address issues caused by changes in the law and document deficiencies – issues that Schanker and Hochberg is able to identify and resolve to the benefit of our clients.