When a deceased person lacks a valid will, their assets require the intervention of the court for administration and distribution – this is known as the probate process. For intestate estates, the procedure involves:
- Identifying and valuing the property
- Paying debts and taxes
- Distributing the assets
Without a will, the court needs to appoint an administrator. This individual might be a chosen family member or, as in New York, a County Public Administrator.
Distribution in intestate situations is based on the relationship the deceased had with their nearest living relatives.
Intestate Estate Timeline and Steps For Probate Process
Navigating an intestate estate's probate can span several months to years, influenced by the estate's intricacy, family disputes, and court schedules. The general steps include:
- Petitioning the court to open the estate and appoint an administrator, through an administration proceeding.
- The administrator's collection and appraisal of assets.
- Addressing outstanding expenses, debts, and tax issues.
- Asset distribution following, for example, New York's intestate succession laws, under court oversight.
- Closing the estate post satisfactory asset distribution.
Who Becomes the Administrator?
The administrator or personal representative is the person the court appoints to oversee and manage your estate if you do not leave a valid will that names an executor.
In New York, the intestate laws give clear guidelines on who and how the administrator will be appointed.
The following are the criteria used to appoint the administrator in order of priority:
- Surviving spouse
- Adult children
- Adult grandchildren
- Adult siblings
- Creditors or interested parties
- Public administrator
The main role of the administrator is to ensure the deceased person's property is well-administered to their loved ones. This individual should act in the best interest of the estate and the distributees by being honest and diligent. Other responsibilities and duties an administrator performs are:
- Locate, identify, and collect all assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal property.
- Notify relevant parties with interest in the estate, such as creditors and potential claimants, to file claims with the courts where applicable.
- Handling financial affairs such as paying expenses, debts, and taxes.
- Keep precise records of the entire process and give periodic progress reports.
- Distribute the remaining property as per New York's intestate succession laws.
- Address any disputes arising from the administrative process.
- Provide updates to the courts and interested parties until the estate closes.