New York Letters of Administration May Be Amended to Collect Assets

When a person dies without a Last Will he is deemed to have died intestate. New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (“SCPA”) Section 103(28) defines “Intestate” as “A person who dies without leaving a valid will.”

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many posts regarding the administration of estates where there is no Will. In these cases the decedent’s distributees (next of kin) have the right to file a petition with the Surrogate’s Court and ask to be appointed as the Estate Administrator. Pursuant to SCPA Section 1001 the decedent’s closest distributees have the right to be appointed as Administrator of the estate.  When a person files a Petition for Letters of Administration, the petition forms require that various items of information be provided to the Court.  For example, the petition must list the names and addresses of all of the decedent’s distributees.  These are the individuals who have a right to receive a distributive share of the estate.  The petition also requires that an estimated value be given regarding the decedent’s personal property and real property.

Sometimes it is difficult to provide completely accurate estimates of the decedent’s assets. This is particularly so where the decedent either lived alone or maintained a very private or secluded lifestyle. Nevertheless, a best estimate must be provided to the Court.

As Estate Administration Lawyers know, the Surrogate’s Court often will grant Letters of Administration to a petitioner but will limit the authority of the administrator to collect assets only to the extent of the estimated values provided in the petition. Very often, after the Estate Administrator has had an opportunity to investigate the decedent’s affairs, it is discovered that the decedent’s assets had a value in excess of the values set forth in the petition.

In these cases, the Administrator is required to provide this information to the Court and ask the Court to amend the Letters of Administration to grant authority to collect the larger amount of estate assets. Typically, the Court will then allow the Letters of Administration to be amended and increase the authority to collect the additional amounts.

The procedure to amend letters of administration was the subject of a recent case decided by Brooklyn Surrogate Margarita Lopez-Torres on October 13, 2015 entitled Estate of Elliott. In Elliott the Administrator petitioned the Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court to amend letters of administration to allow the Administrator to collect assets having a higher value than was allowed by the original letters. One of the estate beneficiaries filed objections to the petition claiming that the Administrator was defrauding the Objectant.  After review the Court found that the objections lacked merit and the objections were dismissed.

Estate Administration proceedings can be very complex. I have represented many clients in connection with these matters. If you have a questions regarding Probate or Administration of an estate, call me now for a free review regarding your issue.

New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including Manhattan and Queens. 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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