The Public Administrator is one of a chosen group of attorneys in one office per county who the Court often calls upon to administer to non-standard cases.
The Public Administrator generally has the job of handling estates of people who die without a Will and who have no close relatives who are able to administer the estate: If your nearest living relative is a cousin (or more distant) the Public Administrator will need to be placed on notice. In addition, the Public Administrator often replaces initial Executors or Administrators who are unable to qualify or unable to serve.
The Public Administrator’s job is to collect all of the assets of the estate, pay the outstanding bills and distribute the remaining money to the distributees of the deceased. The job of finding the distributees is often the most time-consuming and expensive, as distant relatives may have to be located in multiple countries with the help of genealogists or investigators.
During its job, the Public Administrator hires real estate brokers, contractors to repair assets, law firms to handle legal work, and accountants to finalize tax returns. All of these parties have to get paid, and the money, of course, comes from the estate itself. In addition, the Public Administrator gets a percentage of the assets of the estate that it administers – regardless of the quality of work – up to a capped amount. In addition, because of the typical difficulty of Public Administrator cases (remember, Probate in New York is already time consuming under typical circumstances), a Probate or Administration handled by the Public Administrator often takes a few years to clean up.
Having only distant family members, naming unqualified people as your Executor, or not foreseeing inherent future estate conflicts between family members is a sure-fire way to require the Public Administrator to be enlisted to deal with your estate. If you want to avoid having a bureaucrat handling your estate and getting paid as a result, a well-written Will or use of a Trust usually solves the problem!
Disclaimer: This article only offers general information. Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions. As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.