Sometimes a person in New York dies without much to their name. If so, their estate upon their death may qualify for the Voluntary Administration process, which is a quicker and simpler alternative to formal probate proceedings.
What is Voluntary Administration?
In general, if you pass away with less than $50,000 in assets, your estate may be eligible to bypass the formal probate process and go through the simpler Voluntary Administration process. This is true even if you have a will.
However, there are qualifiers about what is considered personal property for the purposes of Voluntary Administration. Your estate is not eligible for Voluntary Administration if you owned real estate (a home, building or land) in your name only at the time of your death. If you died with a will and you owned real estate in your name only, your estate goes through probate.
That being said, if you jointly owned real estate with someone else, such as your spouse, at the time of your death, your estate still qualifies for Voluntary Administration as long as your other assets are worth less than $50,000. If you died without a will, you jointly owned real estate with someone else or no real estate at all, and your assets total under $50,000 your estate goes through Voluntary Administration.
Who is in charge of the Voluntary Administration process?
If you qualify for Voluntary Administration and you left a will, the Surrogate Court will appoint the executor of your will to serve as voluntary administrator. If you qualify for Voluntary Administration and you did not leave a will, your closest relative will fulfill this role. The voluntary administrator collects the assets of your estate which will then be distributed per the terms of your will or through state intestate succession laws if you left no will.
Your voluntary administrator has an important role to fulfill, and even though it is a small estate they may still want to work with an attorney throughout the process. An attorney can help ensure they are filing the correct paperwork and can advise them on their duties should the estate have to go through formal probate proceedings.