With estate planning and probate in New York, there are a litany of rules that must be followed. Some have terms and requirements that can be confusing to a great many people. However, understanding them is crucial to the process and failure to do so can be a major hindrance. One such law that must be understood with estate planning is the voluntary administrator and how circumstances impact who it will be. This can differ depending on whether the person had a will (was testate) or did not have a will (was intestate).

If the person died intestate, the voluntary administrator will be the surviving spouse of the decedent. If there is no spouse or that person renounces this right, it will then fall in the order specified by the statute to a child, grandchild, parent, sibling or other relative of the decedent, provided this person is a competent adult. Eligiblity to act will systematically go beyond the surviving spouse to the first distributee and so on. If none of those people provided for in the statute will act, the responsibility will fall to the county’s chief fiscal officer, who in Erie County, New York is tghe Public Administrator.

When the person died with a will, there will be an executor named in the estate planning document. He or she has the first right to be the voluntary administrator when the will has been filed. If the nominated executor fails to file the necessary affidavit within 30 days of the will being filed in surrogate’s court or the responsibility is renounced, any adult who is entitled to file a petition for letters of administration can move forward with filing the affidavit and be the voluntary administrator. 

Losing a loved one is difficult enough without facing problems with probate and other legal issues. Understanding how the voluntary administrator is determined and what his or her role is will be critical to the process. This is true for decedents who died without a will or had a will in place. A law firm that handles estate planning and probate can assist with these situations and be useful in gaining a reasonable resolution.