The family members of a New York resident who has died without leaving a Last Will and Testament providing for the distribution of his estate are guided by state law. New York's laws of intestacy control which heirs are entitled to distributions from the estate and the proportionate share each will receive.
The Surrogate's Court in the county in which the person resided at the time of his death will handle the administration of the estate.
Gather records and documents of the deceased person. Family members should begin gathering records and other documents of the deceased person as soon as possible. A certified copy of the death certificate, bank and brokerage account statements, deeds to real estate, title to vehicles, insurance policies, credit card statements, and any other document showing the assets and debts of the deceased person are needed to file for letters of administration with the Surrogate's Court.
Obtain the forms for administration of the estate. Obtain the petition for letters of administration from the clerk at the Surrogate's Court in the county in which the person resided at the time of his death or at the court's website.
Decide who will be designated as the administrator of the estate. The court forms come with instructions and a checklist. Before beginning to complete the forms, a family member must be selected to be appointed by the court as the administrator of the estate. If more than one person wants to be the administrator, New York law establishes priority of the deceased's family members in the following order: husband or wife, children, grandchildren, parents, or sisters and brothers.
File the completed petition and supporting documents with the court. Payment of the court fee is due when the petition is filed. The fee varies and is based upon the value of the total estate as shown in the petition for letters testamentary. If the actual value of the estate is more than what is shown in the petition, the additional fee will be paid when the estate is closed.
An administrator can be held personally liable to the estate and the heirs if he does not perform his duties correctly. Consultation with an experienced estate attorney is advised.
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