How to set up a small estate without a lawyer:


There are times when you need to set up an "Estate" even when the deceased had very few assets or most assets were in joint.   New York makes this easy to do with a proceeding called "Voluntary Administration."

What is voluntary administration?

Voluntary administration is a procedure set up by the Court to allow you to administer a small estate as easily as possible.   It is intended to be easy enough for you to do without a lawyer so that you can save the estate money.

You can use Voluntary Adminsistration if:
  1. The total value of the estate is under:
    • $30,000.00 if the person died after January 1, 2009.  Certain types of property, such as household items with a value of not more than $10,000.00 may be excluded from this amount.
    • $20,000.00 if the person died between August 29, 1996 and December 31, 2008.
    • $10,000.00 if the person died between June 15, 1981 and August 28, 2008.
  2. There is no real property to be administered.
  3. Whether or not the deceased had a Will.
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Who can apply for voluntary administration?

The following individuals can bring the voluntary administration proceeding: Top of Page

How much does it cost to file for voluntary administration?

The filing fee is only $1.00.   You may, however, have to pay fees for the certificates (25¢ each).   Usually, one certificate is issued per asset.

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How do I apply for voluntary administration?

Gather the information that you will need for the application.

This includes:

Find if another application has already been brought in the Surrogate Court.

There can be only one application for administration of the estate.   You can start by asking those closest to the deceased if they have applied for administration of if they intend to file.   If you want to administer the estate yourself, you can also tell each of these relatives that you will be filing so that they don't also file.

Check with the Surrogate Court to make sure that no application has been filed.   You can do this on the day you file the paperwork.   Go to the courthouse at 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451.   The Surrogate clerks' offices and file room are on the 3rd floor.   Each office is clearly labeled.   Look for the "Administration" room and tell the clerk that you want to file for "Voluntary Administration" and that you want to see if anyone else has already filed.

The Bronx Surrogate Clerks are some of the nicest and most helpful government employees you are ever going to meet.   The clerk will either look it up for you on the computer or send you to the file room (just down the hall) to make a request for a file.   If another application for voluntary administration, letters of administration or for probate of the Will has been made with regard to this estate, a second application cannot be brought.

Fill out the necessary forms.

You can get the forms you need online using the Surrogate self help program or get the forms as fillable pdf files, Word or Word Perfect files, at the Surrogate Forms website.   To start, you will need the following forms: *Please note that other forms may be required depending on the situation.

File the forms with the Surrogate Clerk..

Go to the courthouse at 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451.   The Surrogate clerks' offices are on the 3rd floor.   Each office is clearly labeled.   Look for the "Administration" room and tell the clerk that you want to file for "Voluntary Administration."   The clerk will check you papers, help you make any corrections and give you instructions on where to pay the fee.

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What do I do with the household items?

Household items not exceeding a total value of $10,000.00, must be given to the surviving spouse.   If there is no surviving spouse, these items of personal property must be given to the deceseased's children under the age of 21 (if applicable).

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