- When a Person Dies with No Will

When the person who died (the Decedent) did not have a Will a proceeding called an Administration can be filed in the Surrogate’s Court to collect and distribute their belongings. If the Decedent had less than $50,000 of personal property and died either with a Will or without a Will, then a small estate, also called a Voluntary Administration proceeding, can be filed. If the Decedent had less than $50,000 of personal property and died with a Will, a probate proceeding can be filed instead.

Administration is the process where the Surrogate's Court officially gives out Letters of Administration to a qualified distributee (heir) of the Decedent. Letters of Administration appoints a Decedent's distributee (heir) and gives them the authority to gather and give out the Decedent's property according to the law.

If the Decedent's only asset is real property (real estate), it may not be necessary to file an administration proceeding depending on who survives the Decedent. According to the law, real property is granted to the Decedent's distributees (heirs) at the time of death, which makes the distributees the owners of the property. It might be a good idea to contact a real estate attorney and the tax office to get more information about this.


Filing for Administration

In New York there is a rule for who can file the Administration proceeding. In general, the person who is the closest distributee (family member) to the Decedent files for administration. See order of priority of family member distributees who can file the Administration proceeding When There Is No Will.

The closest distributee files a copy of the paid funeral bill, a certified death certificate with the Petition for Letters of Administration and other supporting documents in the Surrogate's Court in the county where the Decedent had their primary residence. If you know the debts of the Decedent (such as medical bills, credit card bills, etc.) you should make a list of them. You should also make a list of what the Decedent owned at the time of death (such as bank accounts, house, stocks, etc.). You may be able to file the papers over the internet using NYSCEF, the New York State Courts Electronic Filing system. Check to see if you can do this on the e-filing County List for the Surrogate's Court in your county.

The Decedent's distributees must also be listed in the petition. Distributees must be served (officially given) a notice, called a citation. The citation gives the Surrogate's Court jurisdiction over them. This means that the Surrogate's Court has the power to decide the rights of the people involved. A citation tells the distributee that someone is asking for Letters of Administration to manage the Decedent's estate. The distributee can sign a waiver (giving up their rights) and consent to the appointment of the Administrator or come to court to disagree with the appointment. There may also be a waiver of bond included.

The filing fee is based on the dollar value of the estate.

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