When a person dies without a Last Will, he is considered to have died intestate. The process to appoint a fiduciary for an intestate decedent is known as an Administration Proceeding. At the conclusion of this type of case the Surrogate’s Court will appoint an Administrator. This is in contrast to the situation when a person dies and leaves a Last Will and the Court appoints an Executor in the Probate proceeding. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles about Probate and Administration.
Administration proceedings can have many complex issues. The persons who are entitled to be appointed as an Administrator are set forth in Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 1001. This statute provides a list of the priority for appointment as the estate fiduciary.
A recent matter decided by Albany Surrogate Stacy Pettit on August 16, 2017 entitled Matter of Walsh, Jr. concerned a number of interesting issues. In Walsh, the decedent died without a Will. He was divorced and was survived by a minor child. Although the child had priority to serve as Administrator of the estate, due to the child being under age, another person needed to be appointed as fiduciary. The child’s mother, who was the decedent’s ex-wife, applied to the Court and became the Guardian of the child under Article 17 of the SCPA. Thus, the ex-wife , as the child’s Guardian, had the authority and did become the Administrator of the decedent’s estate.
Thereafter, the decedent’s brother sought to remove the ex-wife as Administrator. The brother claimed that the ex-wife had agreed with the decedent in their divorce that neither of them would be allowed to act as executor or administrator of each other’s estate.
The Court, however, refused to remove the ex-wife as Administrator. It found that the ex-wife was serving as Administrator in her capacity as Guardian of the child who would have been appointed if old enough. The Surrogate held that the ex-wife was not acting as Administrator in her individual capacity and that the divorce agreement did not disqualify her to act on behalf of her child as Guardian.
As can be seen from Walsh there are many aspects of an Administration case that need to be reviewed and considered with a New York City Administration attorney. Issues such as the priority to be the appointed as estate fiduciary and the effect that divorce agreements can have on parties involved are only some of the problems that can arise in these matters. Call me now if you have any questions or concerns regarding an Administration or Probate case. I have represented many individuals and beneficiaries regarding these proceedings.
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.