FAQ: What is a Public Administrator?

The Public Administrator administers the estates of deceased persons (“decedents”).

There is a Public Administrator in every county in the City of New York. The Public Administrator of each county administers the estates of that county’s residents who die without anyone who is willing or able to administer the estate.

The Public Administrator’s primary duty is to administer estates that would otherwise remain unadministered: to protect the decedent’s property from waste, loss or theft; make appropriate burial arrangements when no close relative is available to make the decisions; conduct thorough investigations to discover all assets; liquidate assets at public auction or distribute assets to heirs; pay the decedent’s bills and taxes; and to locate persons entitled to inherit from the estate and ensure that the legal distributees receive their inheritance.

The Public Administrator handles estates in several instances, including but not limited to the following:

  1. When no one else is willing or able to administer the estate
  2. When there are no known heirs
  3. When the executor or administrator cannot serve due to illness, death, conviction of a felony, or is otherwise disqualified from serving and no one else is available

To complete this process, the Public Administrator may employ accountants, auctioneers and others to assist with the administration of the estate. An administrator must inventory the property of the decedent, pay taxes, make funeral arrangements, pay the funeral bill and other debts and claims, and sell such of the decedent’s property as is necessary to accomplish this end. At times the Public Administrator must defend the estate and bring lawsuits to resolve civil difficulties.