The first step is to appear before the county surrogate to probate the will. The earliest you can initiate probate is after at least ten (10) days have passed since the date of death.  The original will is required along with death certificate. You should also have an idea of the estimated value of the estate and list of all beneficiaries or heirs at law with addresses and ages.

Once you are authorized to handle the estate by the surrogate, you need to send notice to all beneficiaries and heirs at law to put them on notice of where the probate has been initiated and your role as the executor or administrator. You will need to file proof of notice with the surrogate. This notice should be provided within sixty (60) days from your appointment.

Next, you can begin managing the assets and debts of the estate. You should open an estate account to collect all the assets. Where there is real property, you may need to arrange for sale. Debts of the estate can include tax liabilities as well. An individual tax return should be filed for decedent. Explore if an inheritance tax return needs to be filed as well. The will may direct that any inheritance  tax assessed is paid out of the estate prior to distribution to beneficiaries. An inheritance tax return should be filed within eight months of death to avoid penalties and interest.

Distribution of the net estate can begin as soon as practical following reconciliation of all debt and collection of all assets. If beneficiaries agree with proposed distribution, have them sign a refunding bond and release to receive their bequest. The release should then be filed with the court. If there is any dispute about administration of the estate and proposed distributions, you may need to complete an accounting demonstrating all steps taking during administration and all funds in and out.  By April M. Townsend