New York Estate Administration Must Always Consider Tax Issues

Estate settlement in New York, including Westchester and Suffolk counties, requires a consideration of many issues. A post in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog on December 6, 2011 talked about a number of estate tax issues that should be considered, including the current $5 million federal tax exemption and “portability” of the unused exemption between spouses.

Executors and Administrators have the fiduciary responsibility of calculating and preparing both Federal and New York State estate taxes, as well as fiduciary estate income taxes. Once an estate comes into existence it is like an ongoing business. Assets must be determined and collected and liabilities and debts need to be paid or resolved. Essentially, the fair market value of the assets owned by a decedent at death will form the basis for determining the estate tax obligation. The income and expenses generated by the estate during the course of Estate Administration are factors to be considered in determining the estate’s annual income tax liability.

Estate taxes are typically due to be paid nine (9) months after the decedent’s date of death. Fiduciary income tax returns are usually due in April. Extensions for the filing of estate tax and income tax returns are routinely obtained but estimated payments on account of the taxes due must be timely made or interest and possibly penalties can be imposed.

The problem faced by many fiduciaries is obtaining enough information about assets, income, expenses and liabilities in a relatively short period of time so that accurate returns can be prepared and appropriate estimated payments can be made. This process can be complicated where the decedent’s assets and income are not easily discovered or are complicated by issues of valuation or litigation regarding ownership. Nassau estate attorneys, like estate attorneys throughout New York, work closely with executors, administrators and trustees to obtain necessary information and plan for the filing and payment of these taxes.

An example of such problems was recently reported with regard to the estate of Brooke Astor. Many articles have been written concerning the estate of socialite Brooke Astor who died on August 13, 2007 and whose son was convicted of stealing her assets. In an article written by William P. Barrett which appeared in Forbes on December 7, 2011, it was reported that the IRS is seeking upwards of $62 million in taxes from the estate, which includes millions of dollars in assessed penalties. The tax disputes seem to concern charitable deductions that the IRS is refusing to recognize along with the failure of the decedent to file and pay certain gift taxes during her lifetime.

It is not uncommon for actions and failures to act by a decedent during life to have a dramatic effect upon estate settlement and, ultimately, estate beneficiaries. Suppose a decedent due to illness or neglect failed to file or pay income or gift taxes during the years prior to death. The estate fiduciaries have a fiduciary obligation to prepare these old and overdue tax returns and pay the tax liability along with any interest and penalty charges. Such payments may have a large impact upon the amount of monies that pass under a Last Will or by intestacy to the decedent’s beneficiaries. The advice and counsel of estate attorneys is essential when dealing with these matters.

New York Probate Attorney Jules M. Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to estate planning, estate accountings and estate settlement in Manhattan and Queens and throughout New York. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.

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