Small Estates In New York

A decedent’s estate qualifies as a small estate under New York law if it consists of no more than $30,000 in personal property.

What Qualifies As A Small Estate In New York?

Pursuant to Article 13 of the SCPA, §1301:

A small estate is the estate of a domiciliary or a non-domiciliary who dies leaving personal property having a gross value of $30,000 or less exclusive of property required to be set of under EPTL 5-3.1(a).

EPTL 5-3.1(a), referenced in the definition of small estate, addresses exempt property for the surviving spouse or children under 21.

Small estates in New York can only be opened to administer decedent’s personal property, such as a bank account.  If the decedent owned real property, then a small estate could not be used to administer the real property.

What Is A Voluntary Administrator?

The voluntary administrator is the person who qualifies and undertakes to settle the small estate of the decedent in New York without the formality of court administration.  A voluntary administrator administers a small estate.

Who Can Serve As A Voluntary Administrator of A New York Small Estate?

If decedent dies intestate, then the right to act as a voluntary administrator goes to the following competent adults in the following order:

  1. The surviving adult spouse;
  2. Child
  3. Grandchild
  4. Parent
  5. Brother or sister
  6. Niece or nephew or aunt or uncle
  7. Guardian of the property of an infant

If the decedent dies testate, then the named executor or alternate executor shall have the first right to act as voluntary administrator, upon filing the last will and testament with the surrogate’s court.  If the named executor or alternate executor renounces or fails to qualify by filing the required affidavit within thirty days after the last will and testament has been filed in the surrogate’s court, then any adult person who would be entitled to petition for letters of administration with will annexed may file the required affidavit and have the right to act as the voluntary administrator.

How Do You Administer A Small Estate In New York?

The summary procedure for a small estate in New York is set forth in SCPA 1304.  First, the persons who seeks appointment as the voluntary administrator must file with the clerk of the court of the decedent’s domicile, an Affidavit in Relation to Settlement of Estate Under Article 13, SCPA, along with a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate.  The clerk charges $1 for filing the affidavit.

The clerk of the court then files the affidavit and assigns it a number.  Each distributee and beneficiary mentioned in the affidavit is sent notice.

The clerk issues a certificate showing the filing of the affidavit, and the voluntary administrator than uses the certificate to collect the decedent’s assets.

The voluntary administrator must open an estate account, and deposit decedent’s assets into the account.  The assets can be used to pay the bills and expenses of the decedent.  The remaining assets are distributed to the person or persons entitled to receive them.

Do I Need A Lawyer For A Small Estate?

No, you are not required to hire a lawyer to handle the small estate process in New York.