The job of the Executor of a Will (or administrator if the person passes away without a Will) is to identify and collect all of the assets of the decedent, manage and protect those assets, pay the decedent’s debts and taxes, and ultimately distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries.
The assets of the estate are determined by how title to those assets are held. Assets that are jointly title with rights of survivorship (ex: joint tenants with rights of survivorship or tenants by the entirety) automatically pass to the surviving joint tenant. If there is a beneficiary designated on an account, that asset automatically passes to the beneficiary without becoming part of the probate estate. While the Executor is only responsible for distributing probate assets (i.e.: assets that are not jointly owned or do not have a beneficiary designation) they are still required to obtain information on both probate and non-probate assets.
The Executor must obtain a written date of death valuation of all assets of the estate and determine if any Estate Taxes are owed. At the time of this post, 2018, the New York State Estate Tax Exemption is $5.25million and the Federal Estate Tax Exemption is $11.18million per person.
The Executor will need to be sure that the debts and expense of the estate are paid in order of priority before making any distribution of estate assets to the beneficiaries.
A typical, uncontested, non-taxable estate proceeding takes approximately one year to complete.