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Christopher B, Esq
Christopher B, Esq, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 2982
Experience:  Litigation Attorney with education focus on estate planning and tax
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A first cousin just died here in NY and he didn't have a will, his estate including a

Customer Question

A first cousin just died here in NY and he didn't have a will, his estate including a home is valued well over $33,000 and I was wondering if the courts will settle the estate or a voluntary administrator? There are possibly bonds that could amount to well over $300,000 and a great many antiques and collectibles.
A sister has already petitioned the surrogate court to be administrator, but she hasn't received any confirmation from the court regarding this, however, she's already begun clearing out the house. She's not kept an inventory and has taken some things to her home. Is this something that she should be doing or not doing?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 2 years ago.
My name is***** and I will be helping you with your question today. This answer is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship.As I stated in the answer to the other question. Since there is no Will appointing an Executor, the law sets forth who may be appointed Administrator. Usually, the Administrator will be, in order of preference, the spouse, the children, the grandchildren, the father or mother, the brother or sisters and so on. The exact order is specifically provided by New York Statute. New York Surrogates Court Procedure Act 1001. See following link: Since you are a cousin and not ahead of your cousin's sister in the line of succession to become administrator according to New York statute, you would not have the right to object to the sister as administrator. If there is someone ahead of the sister in the line of succession such as a spouse or child then they would have standing to object.The Executor or Administrator has a fiduciary duty to the estate as well as its beneficiaries and creditors. Which means that he or she is held to a very high degree of care. A fiduciary must be extremely faithful towards the estate, its beneficiaries and creditors and must not put his or her own interests ahead of that duty. In New York, the Executor / Administrator is appointed by the Surrogate’s Court located in the county where the decedent resided. Once the Will is admitted to probate, the Executor is appointed and may proceed to administer the estate. Note that before the Will is probated, the person named as Executor has no authority to act. If there is no Will, an Intestate Administration proceeding is filed. The court will then appoint an Administrator and he or she will have all of the powers of an Executor. Again the Administrator has no authority to act before being appointed by the court. It would seem that the sister has overstepped her bounds by clearing out the house especially since she has not taken an accounting to your knowledge per your question. A basic checklist of estate settlement tasks is the following:Make a list of the decedent's assets and protect them by notifying the financial institutions of the death and your appointment.Obtain professional appraisals of real property and personal property (e.g. art, jewelry, furniture), if needed.Once you have collected some funds, open an estate checking account.Determine if there are creditors of the estate and whether their claims are valid.Pay estate debts and expenses (e.g., funeral expenses, court fees, attorney fees, appraisal costs, etc.).Keep careful and detailed records of financial transactions (i.e., make a ledger and record all income and expenses).Have the decedent’s final income tax return and estate income tax returns prepared and filed, if needed.Federal and State estate tax returns should be prepared and filed on time, if required.Pay the balance of estate funds to the beneficiaries of the will or to the intestate distributees.Once the administrator is issued letters of administration, they are obligated to locate and gather all estate assets, obtain an estate identification number from the IRS, open an estate account, manage all the estate assets, pay any debts which the decedent owed, reimburse reasonable funeral expenses, pay any estate taxes due, and finally, distribute the remaining assets. A partial list as to how assets are distributed is as follows:When the decedent is survived by a Spouse and has no children, the spouse receives 100%When the decedent is survived by a spouse and children, the spouse receives the first $50,000. The balance is then divided, with the spouse getting 50% and the children sharing the other 50%.When there are children and no spouse, the children share in 100% of the estate.When there is no spouse and no children, the parents share in 100% of the estateWhen there is no spouse, no children, and both parents are dead, the estate is shared among all living children of the parents.The administrator entitled to a commission of the estate as compensation. This commission is a percentage of the estate, and is a sliding scale based on the size of the estate. Upon distribution of the assets, the estate is closed. It would seem that the sister has not take an inventory and could be wrongfully administering assets in the estate to herself before she even has the power to do so. It is up to the other beneficiaries to object to the sister as administrator and state that an inventory be made before the sister or another administrator distribute the property. Again, Please let me know if you have any further questions or require any additional guidance. Please do not forgot to positively rate my answer as this is the only way that I am compensated for my work.
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 2 years ago.
I see that you have viewed my answer. Do you have any further questions? Let me know if there is anything else I can do to satisfy you.
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 2 years ago.
Any chance for a positive rating?