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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
1236 Brace Road, Suite F
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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Cherry Hill NJ Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Estate administration might be a complex undertaking

The administrator of an estate has a lot of duties to fulfill. We recently discussed the duties of the administrator when the decedent has debts. This is only one consideration that the administrator has to think about. We understand how it might be a bit overwhelming to have to deal with the duties of estate administration when you are still trying to deal with your loved one's death.

We are here to help you learn about what duties you have as the administrator. We will also help you to learn about the ways that you might be able to get your duties done.

What are your obligations if a loved one died in debt?

The death of a loved one is a sad time under any circumstances, and it can be a stressful one if you have been tasked with administering the estate. However, what if you find out that the deceased had considerable debt? What are your responsibilities?

Surviving relatives of a person with debt have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. The FDCPA makes it illegal for debt collectors, including collection agencies, companies that buy debt and attorneys, from using unfair, deceptive or abusive practices to collect money owed by a deceased person.

Living wills can do a lot for you in your final days

We recently discussed some of the specific things you should consider if you are going to become an organ donor. Just like with most other end-of-life decisions, you should discuss this one with your family members. We can help you to learn about what plans to make for your estate plan, as well as what your options are to ensure that your wishes are clearly conveyed.

A very important aspect of your estate plan is your living will. You need to let your loved ones know what kinds of medical care you want in your final days. This can be a very difficult proposition since most people don't like to think about these things; however, being able to let them know precisely what you want can be very valuable.

National Donate Life Month: Considering organ donation

During estate planning, you often concentrate on external assets such as cash, real estate or family heirlooms. In the past, we've talked about the importance of considering everything you leave behind, which might include creative or intellectual assets. One other thing you have to give is yourself -- specifically, your body. April is National Donate Life Month, which is a great time to consider whether you might want to be an organ donor or not.

One of the reasons that many people avoid signing up to be an organ donor is that they buy into some myths about the subject. For example, many people believe that if they are on the organ donor list, then medical staff might not work as hard to save their lives. The thinking on this comes from a misconception that doctors and nurses might look at organs as more valuable than the person. While it's true that your organs can save other lives, medical professionals who are treating you are concerned with you.

Three reasons to get legal help with probate

Probate is the process by which courts adjudicate estates. Courts apply state laws to the matter, and they also consider the legal documents that are present in the estate, including wills and trusts. Most estates go through some version of the probate process, though certain assets can be protected from the process by placing them in trusts. Payable-on-death accounts such as life insurance policies also don't have to go through probate.

When dealing with probate matters, there are numerous reasons you might want to have an experienced professional on your side. One of those reasons is to protect the wishes of the loved one who has passed away. Likely he or she had certain desires for the legacy of the estate, and other people might want to change how those things are being handled. By working with a probate lawyer, you can help protect your loved one's legacy.

Giving money away now to avoid taxes later

If you know that you are going to pass away with a healthy level of assets in your estate, experts say that giving gifts to your heirs now and throughout your life can reduce the amount of tax that is levied on your estate. Federal estate taxes don't kick in until your estate is valued more than at $5.49 million, and married couples can leverage their status for an exemption that is effectively double the number for a single person.

It's easy to underestimate the value of your total estate, though; when you throw in real property such as land and homes, you could end up over that threshold. Even if you don't reach the federal threshold, many states have their own estate or inheritance taxes that can be a burden for heirs, and the threshold for those taxes is often lower.

Whom should you notify when someone dies?

The obvious answer is that you should notify family and close friends, but that's the immediate answer. Beyond that, the executor of an estate has to make numerous notifications to begin closing out accounts and transferring assets appropriately into the ownership of the estate. Notification of the death might also spur the release of payable-upon-death benefits associated with life insurance or financial accounts.

How and when you make notifications of a death depend on a number of factors. In some cases, you might need copies of the death certificate; in others, you must complete specific forms provided by the company in question. As the executor of an estate, you definitely want to conduct research to discover all insurance policies that were either held by the decedent or covered the decedent. Notify car insurance, home insurance, health insurance and life insurance companies that are associated with the decedent.

Personal representatives have duties that can vary

When someone dies, there might be a need to go through the probate process. This is necessary if the person had significant assets that need to be handled. The probate process involves the administration of the decedent's estate by the person the named executor or personal representative.

The exact method for administering the estate depends on a host of factors. One factor is whether there are any disagreements about the estate or not among the heirs. The process for handling an estate that has a contested will is going to be much more complicated than an estatewhere all the heirs agree about the probate process.

Learn about probate litigation if you are facing an estate issue

After your loved one passes away, you will likely dread the day when you have to start going through his or her belongings. This is often a very difficult time for family members. If your loved one had a will, this process might be a bit easier because it would include information about who get what; however, this isn't always a smooth process.

We know that some family members feel like the estate plan left behind might not be correct. Some potential problems, such as accusations of the estate plan being made under duress might occur. When these arise, the estate might end up having to go through the probate litigation process.

Can the 'Four A's' help you deal with probate litigation stress?

Anytime you have to deal with the legal system or courts, it can be stressing. While there's typically nothing to fear from the probate process, there might be a lot at stake.

Simply dealing with the unfamiliar formalities of the legal process can be overwhelming. One of the best ways to reduce your stress level during probate litigation is to work with an estate law professional that you trust and who can explain each step to you while handling the details.