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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Click on a question in the list below to view the answer.

What is the Public Administrator?

Who may act as a personal representative?

What Is An Estate?

Duty To Notify The Public Administrator Of A Death

What Are The Responsibilities Of the Public Administrator?

Categories Of Estates Handled By The Public Administrator?

How Can I Report A Death to the Public Administrator?


The Public Administrator is a legally mandated office of county government for the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Erie, Monroe and Onondoga as well as in every county in the City of New York. The Public Administrator applies to the Surrogate’s Court to be the administrator and serves as fiduciary to collect and distribute the assets of estates of deceased county residents. The Public Administrator gets involved when there is no one with higher authority to act; or when those persons fail to act; or they are incapacitated; or cannot be found. The Surrogate Court Judge makes the ultimate decision whether to appoint the Public Administrator on a given estate.

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In cases where there is no named executor to carry out the provisions of a will, the New York Surrogate's Court Procedure Act Section 1001(1) provides that:

Letters of administration must be granted to the persons who are distributees of an intestate and who are eligible and qualify, in the following order:
  1. the surviving spouse,
  2. the children,
  3. the grandchildren,
  4. the father or mother,
  5. the brothers or sisters
  6. any other persons who are distributees and who are eligible and qualify, preference being given to the person entitled to the largest share in the estate, except as hereinafter provided:
    1. Where there are eligible distributees equally entitled to administer the court may grant letters of administration to one ore more such persons.
    2. If the distributees are issue of grandparents, other than aunts or uncles, on only one side, then letters of administration shall issue to the public administrator or chief financial officer of the county.

An individual has no power to administer an estate until that person is appointed Personal representative by the court. Appointment as a personal representative becomes effective when the person appointed is issued Letters of Administration.

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An estate is any asset owned by an individual that has value. It may consist of cash or other personal property. An estate may or may not have real property. Whatever the value of a decedent's estate, it must be properly distributed pursuant to the provisions of the New York Estate Laws.

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Surrogate's Court Procedure Act Section 1113 provides that:

  1. Every person keeping a hotel, boarding or rooming house in any of the counties to which this article applies shall report in writing to the Public Administrator of his county information concerning every person not a member of his family who shall die in his hotel or house within 12 hours after such death.
  2. The chief medical examiner or such similar public officer of each county to which this article applies within 12 hours after an inquest shall report in writing to the Public Administrator of his county, such information regarding the decedent which he may have.
  3. Every undertaker shall file a report in writing with the public administrator of his county within 12 hours after receiving an order for the burial by him of any decedent having no known distributees or having been survived only by cousins or relatives by marriage, such information regarding the decedent which he may have.

Notification to the Public Administrator can also be made by any member of the community upon the death of an individual when there is no will and no next of kin acting to handle the affairs of the estate or the property of an estate is subject to loss, injury, waste, or misappropriation.

Report of Death formpdf form is available for download in PDF format.

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  1. Location of Beneficiaries and Heirs:
    When it appears that no one with a higher authority is acting to handle a decedent's estate, it is the duty of the Public Administrator to make a diligent search for a will and the names and addresses of heirs. If a will is found, the named executor is notified.

    If no will is found, then the Public Administrator will give notice to known distributees of the decedent to determine if they are willing or able to handle the estate. If there are no heirs or the heirs are unable or unwilling to act, the Public Administrator may handle the disposition of the estate.
  2. Possession of Assets:
    If no personal representative has been appointed, the Public Administrator has the responsibility to take prompt possession or control of the property of a decedent. All assets of a decedent's estate are brought under the control of the Public Administrator when a determination is made that the Public Administrator will handle the estate.
  3. Payment of Debts:
    The Public Administrator tries to ascertain the debts of each estate and notify all known creditors. Creditor's claims are sent out and a minimum of seven months is allowed for creditors to file a claim against the estate before the estate can be closed.
  4. Sale of Personal and Real Property:
    The Nassau County Public Administrator liquidates all property from estates in order to pay the debts of those estates and make proper distribution.

    All real property, jewelry, automobiles and boats are sold at public auctions.
  5. Distribution of Assets:
    The Public Administrator must attempt to distribute the assets of an estate to those who are entitled to inherit them. When there is no will, the proper order of those persons who are entitled to inherit an estate's assets is listed in the Estates Powers and Trust Laws 4-1.1. However, determining who is entitled to inherit what and locating those individuals can be very time consuming.

    In some cases those entitled to inherit have passed away. In other cases there may be no current address for heirs or beneficiaries of a will located among the decedent's possessions. These problems can drastically slow down the time of distribution.

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  1. Small Estates
    1. Estates not exceeding $30,000.00 in value. The Public Administrator may act without court authorization to marshal and distribute the assets of these estates pursuant to Surrogates Court Procedure Act.
    2. Estates valued at $30,000.01 and above. The Public Administrator may act after receiving Letters of Administration.
  2. Accountings
    1. Small Estates under $30,000 are closed by informal accountings to the interested parties.
    2. Formal Estates $30,000 and over are closed by judicial accounting. Notice is given to all interested parties and submitted to the Surrogate for court approval.
Upon approval of the Surrogate by court decree, the Public Administrator is discharged.

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By downloading, printing, completing and filing a Report of Death formpdf form with this office.

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