If you are going through the process of estate administration as the executor to an estate, you are probably aware of what a pain it can be. Even when everything goes smoothly, estate administration is a tedious process that can take months, or even years, to fully go through. Unfortunately, things do not always go smoothly, and problems can arise at any time. Here are five issues you may encounter while trying to administer an estate:

1) Will gets contested

Obviously, one of the most troublesome things that can happen during estate administration is that the will gets contested. This might come from a family member who did not receive what they thought they got, or from someone who genuinely believes the will is illegitimate. Whatever the rationale, however, it falls to the executor of the estate to defend against the contest and prove the validity of the will. Not only is this a long process that can extend the period of estate administration by many months, but it can also result in major costs that must be paid from the estate itself.

2) A new will appears

A related kind of nightmare involves someone uncovering another, allegedly more recent will in the middle of the estate administration process. Or, alternately, it may involve someone discovering a will for someone who was believed to have died without a will. Not only does this scenario throw the potential validity of any current will into question, but it means you may need to undo any part of estate administration you have already accomplished. And that is, of course, assuming this new will is legitimate, which will need to be decided through litigation.

3) Property no longer owned by the estate

A competently written will is meant to dispose of a person’s entire estate, ensuring it goes to whoever the testator (the person who wrote the will) wants it to go to. However, sometimes a last will and testament will mention giving someone property that the testator no longer owns, and thus has no right to give to someone else. In that case, you can expect chaos and confusion, and potentially a will contest, especially if no one was aware that the contested property was no longer in the testator’s possession.

4) Beneficiary is unavailable

On the other side of the equation, sometimes the will grants money or property to someone who you cannot, for one reason or another, get a hold of. This could be because the person in question is dead, and the will was never updated to reflect that fact. It could also be because the person has disappeared somewhere, and no one can figure out how to get in contact with them. While the latter scenario is less likely today than it was before the advent of the internet and social media, the former scenario happens all the time. Either way, though, you could be looking at a legal mess that you need to clean up before estate administration can be completed.

5) Taxes and creditors

Of course, the people who inherit under the will can be hungry enough to get their inheritances. But you know who else wants access to the money and property in the estate? Why, tax collectors and debt collectors, of course. Not only may the estate be subject to a variety of taxes that will eat into everyone’s inheritances, but creditors will seek to satisfy any outstanding debts from the estate. If the estate was not appropriately structured, there may be a lot less money for everyone to inherit afterwards than there was before taxes and debts needed to be paid.

The elder law attorneys at David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC will thoroughly analyze your estate and work with you to determine the best means of transferring your assets, minimizing taxes, and ensuring your needs are met. For comprehensive estate planning services in New York, call David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC at (631) 750-0900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our Setauket office.

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