A person who dies without leaving a last will and testament is said to have died “intestate.” After the death of such person, a petition must be filed with the Surrogate’s Court in the county of the deceased person’s residence for the appointment of an Administrator to collect and distribute the deceased person’s assets. While the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act provides for a very specific pecking order in regard to who is best suited to be the Administrator of the deceased person’s estate, typically the appointed Administrator will be a member of the deceased person’s family. If more than one person seeks to act as the Administrator of the deceased person’s estate, the court may have a hearing to determine who should be the Administrator.
After formal court appointment, the Administrator is responsible for the collection of all of the decedent’s assets, must determine the validity of debts owed by the decedent and pay valid debts, including funeral and burial expenses, must file all tax returns with the IRS and New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, including the decedent’s final personal income tax return, an estate tax return, if required, and fiduciary income tax returns, if required, must pay all taxes due and/or collect refunds due, must prepare an accounting and seek approval of the accounting by all of the decedent’s distributees and, thereafter, must distribute all the decedent’s assets in accordance with the law of intestacy.
The law of intestacy provides for specific rules as to who an intestate decedent’s property will pass. This law provides for distribution to a spouse and blood relatives only. No distribution can be made to close friends or to a boyfriend/girlfriend.
If a loved one has passed away recently without leaving a last will and testament, call our office today for a free consultation.