(When there is No Will)
What is Estate Administration?
If you die without a Will, an Administrator may need to be appointed in order to manage your property and handle your post mortem affairs.
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Who can be the Administrator of my estate?
SCPA 1001 sets forth who can be the Administrator, and the priority in which Letters of Administration can be issued. The order of priority for Letters of Administration are:
- A first cousin can serve as an administrator ONLY when all of the cousins on both sides of the family are known and the Court has acquired jurisdiction over all of them. Otherwise, in a cousin’s case, Letters of Administration shall issue to the Public Administrator of the county of Decedent’s death.
- In some cases, a person separate and apart from the above list can serve as a designated administrator but this can only happen if all of the other interested parties consent to the appointment of the designated person.
(There is an interesting anomaly in the law as presently written in that if you die without a Will, all of the next of kin can choose and designate an independent person to serve as an Administrator and there is no additional requirement that the distributees themselves be eligible. Where there is a Will, however, if all of the nominated executors cannot be found or are not qualified, the residuary beneficiaries can choose an independent person to serve as Administrator, c.t.a. only if each of the residuary beneficiaries are themselves eligible. Compare SCPA 1001(6) with SCPA 1418(6).)
What is the Role of an Administrator?
Once letters of Administration have issued, the Administrator’s duties parallel the Executor’s duties. The Administrator should find and collect the assets. Any liquid assets should be deposited into an estate account. If there are parcels of real property, then the Administrator needs to determine whether the property should be sold or distributed in kind. The Administrator should wait to see what claims are filed against the estate. Once the assets are collected, the claims and debts are satisfied, then the Administrator can distribute the property in accordance with the intestate distribution schedule set forth in EPTL 4-1.1. I typically recommend that the Administrator create a distribution chart. I also ask that all beneficiaries sign a Receipt Release and Indemnification Agreement before the Administrator turns over the funds so that the Administrator can be protected.
How do I become appointed Administrator?
First, you must figure out who the Decedent was immediately survived by. The person who immediately survived the Decedent has the first priority to become an Administrator, unless you can find a reason to disqualify them.
- A certified copy of the Death Certificate
- A paid copy of the funeral bill
- And, if the Decedent was survived by only one person or by cousins, an Affidavit of Heirship from a disinterested person.
Next, fill out the forms.
You can download them here: http://nycourts.gov/forms/surrogates/omni/ADM.pdf
- Administration Petition;
- “Waiver of Process; Consent to Probate” (“Waiver”) or a “Citation” for everybody listed in Paragraph 6;
- Affidavit of Assets and Liabilities;
- If you are requesting no bond, then an Affidavit to Dispense with the Filing of a Bond.
Bring The Filing Fee.
The Fees depends on the value of the gross estate. Here’s a quick cheat sheet chart from SCPA 2402: http://nycourts.gov/forms/surrogates/pdfs/feeschedule.pdf
Go to the Surrogate’s Court in the County where you Decedent died or had property to submit all the forms. Go to the Administration Department (because you have do NOT have the will). Submit the forms and pay the fee. If you did not get a waiver and consent from all of your necessary parties, the Court will issue a Citation with a return date. Go to Court on the return date. If nobody objects, the Court will issue letters. If somebody objects, consider calling an attorney.
Facts and circumstances may differ in every case. If you have nuances, consider contacting an estate attorney who can help wade through the nuances. Get an attorney familiar with the local rules in the county where you are seeking to probate/administer. I practice mostly in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
Click here to download instructions for “5 Steps to Becoming Administrator of an Estate in NYC”