When a person dies without a Last Will he is said to have died intestate. The handling of an intestate estate falls under the heading of an administration proceeding as opposed to a probate proceeding when a person dies and leaves a Last Will. The fiduciary of an intestate estate is called an Administrator. The fiduciary of an estate where there is a Will is typically called an Executor. While a Will usually names and identifies the persons who are to be appointed as Executors, there is no such designation by a decedent when there is no Will. As a result, reference must be made to the provisions of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA). Section 1001 of the SCPA provides a list of the decedent’s next of kin and others who have a right to be appointed as the estate administrator. The section is entitled “Order of priority for granting letters of administration”. The statutory list of persons who have the priority of appointment begins with the decedent’s spouse, and then goes to children, grandchildren, parents and more distant relatives. One of the problems encountered with appointing an administrator is that there may be multiple individuals who have the same priority rights to appointment and they may be adverse to each other. These situations typically result in estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Courts where the Court is called upon to decide which person or persons should be appointed as the fiduciary.
Additionally, there are cases where the person who has the priority for appointment as administrator is opposed by other interested parties who may assert that the proposed administrator is not appropriate or is unfit to serve as the estate fiduciary. Continue reading →