Delaware Law Office
of Larry D. Sullivan, Esquire


Estate Law - Estate Administration

Estate law is part of the body of law involving the steps that need to be followed when someone dies, and leaves property behind.

There are a number of legal procedures that need to be followed, including inventorying the property, and making certain that it goes to the people named in a will, if there is one. Disputes do arise over how property should be distributed.

Estate law also involves winding up the affairs of the person.

The term "Delaware estate law" is often used to refer to the processing of the estate of the deceased, also known as probate or estate administration. Trust administration is sometimes also an element of estate law, when a trust has been used to by-pass probate. Each of the threeDelaware counties, New Castle, Kent and Sussex, have different variations upon the underlying statewide theme. A Delaware Estate attorney can help you through this legal process, or advise youas to whether you need to probate the estate at all.

Meeting time limits, selling property if necessary, and reviewing tax requirements are part of the process of probate.

There are many myths associated with estate law. One of the most common, and false myths, is that if a person dies without a will (intestate) then all of his property goes to the state. The law provides that if a person dies intestate, his property goes to his next of kin in certain shares. A person's property would only go to the state if we could find no blood relative whatsoever, after an exhaustive search.

Another false myth is that the probate process in Delaware involves the payment of huge amounts of taxes. The truth is that there are zero taxes unless the estate approaches the $ 1 Million level. There are other expenses associated with handling an estate, and one should normally expect costs to be in the 7% range, but for most estates in Delaware there are absolutely no taxes.

Many persons who are in the first few days after the loss of a family member will rush to attempt to pay the bills of the deceased. This is usually a very bad idea, and sometimes in violation of the law. The law provides that the creditors have 8 months to submit their claims upon the estate.

And the law further assigns priorities to the debts, in cases where there isn't enough money in the estate to pay all of the bills. There are plenty of unscrupulous bill collectors who don't want you to know this. They want to get paid first. I have seen many cases where the bill collectors attempt to harass bereaved family members into paying a bill before it should be paid, even threatening to have the debt negatively effect the credit rating of the deceased. Well, let's face it, a deceased person's credit rating really doesn't matter.

A good rule of thumb for the early stage of an estate is that we should arrange for the payment of funeral expenses and only those other expenses necessary to protect the estate property, such as fire and casualty insurance. The rest can follow in the due course of the probate.

The advice and assistance of a Delaware Probate Attorney is very helpful during this process.

Delaware Dynasty Trusts

Delaware Dynasty Trusts are irrevocable trusts created for the benefit of the grantor's descendants and funded with property to which the grantor allocates all or a portion of his or her generation skipping tax exemption.

Delaware has repealed the law against perpetuities which allows the trust to exist well after the lifetime rule governing transfers in most other states.

Larry D. Sullivan, Esq.