If someone dies without a will or trust, the person had died intestate. The distribution of an intestate estate is governed by the law of New York State and is known as intestate administration. Our attorneys and support staff are knowledgeable and skilled legal advocates who understand the finer points of the law and are able to complete the requirements successfully.

At the law offices of Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, we handle intestate administration for individuals and families throughout the five boroughs of New York City as well as Long Island. Our team of lawyers guide clients through the process and provide them with their options and rights when a relative or other significant person in their lives dies intestate. We understand that the death of a loved one is difficult and handle each case with professionalism and compassion to ensure the client is at ease knowing that they are being represented by a firm that has their rights and interests as their priority.

The steps of each intestate administration include:

  • Appointment of the Estate Administrator Unlike a probate proceeding where the decedent designates an executor to handle his or her estate, an administration proceeding is governed by statute that has an order of priority of individuals who are entitled to serve as administrator of an intestate estate. The law provides the following order of who has priority to be appointed administrator: surviving spouse of the deceased, children of the deceased, grandchildren of the deceased, parents and siblings. In some cases, family members request that two or more of them be appointed as co-administrators. The administrator or co-administrators then petition the Surrogate’s Court to have Letters of Administration issued that allow the administrator or co-administrator to act.
  • Determining Heirship Once there has been an administrator or co-administrators appointed and Letters of Administration have been issued by the Surrogate, the process operates similarly to the administration of an estate for which the deceased had prepared a will or trust. However, since there is often little to no information regarding the beneficiaries of the estate, an important part of the administrator’s responsibilities is to determine who the deceased’s legal heirs are. An essential component of the process of identifying heirs is the undertaking of a kinship proceeding on behalf of any individuals who believe they should be included as beneficiaries of the estate as well as for any individuals who seek to protect their inheritances from individuals alleging to be beneficiaries.
  • Collecting and Distributing Assets The administrator has the duty to collect, liquidate and distribute the assets of the estate and to pay all accepted obligations and taxes. The law New York State establishes how assets are to be distributed and who has priority in receiving the decedent’s estate.
  • Resolving Disputes When an individual dies without leaving a will or trust, the relatives and other heirs of the deceased often contest how the decedent’s assets are to be distributed. When emotions are running high, it is important to have an experienced attorney in your corner who can provide practical legal guidance and minimize disputes that may require legal action to preserve the estate assets.

In situations where relatives or other individuals remove or transfer assets from the estate, the law firm of Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP is skilled at locating the assets and returning them to the estate so that they can be distributed to those family members who are legally entitled to the assets. Disputes such as these often lead to difficult and strained interactions among family members who believe they have a right to particular property. Our attorneys will act on our clients’ behalf to manage these disputes and work towards returning disputed property to the correct heirs, relieving the client from the stressful and adversarial interactions with family members.