Important Information Regarding New York Letters of Administration

When a person dies without a Last Will and Testament, he is deemed to have died intestate. This means that the administration of the decedent’s estate is to be controlled by the New York laws of intestacy. The primary statutory authority for intestate estates is Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 4-1.1 entitled “Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate”. This statute provides the order of priority for the individuals entitled to inherit from the estate.

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles regarding intestacy. Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 1001 entitled “Order of priority granting letters of administration”, sets forth the persons entitled to be appointed as the estate Administrator.

In intestate estates the Court appoints an Administrator. When a person dies and leaves a Last Will, typically the Court appoints an Executor. Both EPTL §4-1.1 and SCPA §1001 give priority for the distribution of a decedent’s estate and the appointment of the administrator to a surviving spouse. However, there are provisions in the Estate Laws that can prevent a surviving spouse from either receiving a share of the estate or from being appointed as estate administrator. Such provisions can be found in SCPA §707 entitled “Eligibility to receive letters” and EPTL §5-1.2 entitled “Disqualification as surviving spouse”.

It is not uncommon for estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Court to arise where other family members attempt to prevent a surviving spouse from either receiving an inheritance or acting as the estate fiduciary.  A Staten Island Estate case decided by Surrogate Robert Gigante on August 31, 2018 entitled Matter of Estate of Centner, concerned these very issues. In Centner, the decedent’s daughter tried to prevent the decedent’s surviving spouse from being appointed as estate administrator. The daughter claimed that the spouse failed to provide support for the decedent and was, therefore, disqualified pursuant to EPTL §5-1.2(6).   The daughter also claimed that information from the divorce between the decedent and the spouse that was pending at the time the decedent died showed that the spouse was dishonest.

In view of the many conflicting allegations and the need for the Court to make a full determination of the facts, the Court scheduled the case for an evidentiary hearing to be held at a later date.  I have represented many clients in contested and non-contested Administration proceedings regarding intestate estates. These matters can be complex and involve the status of a surviving spouse and other kinship issues. Call me now for a free review if you have an issue regarding Estate Administration or an Intestate Estate.

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 Brooklyn.   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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