The Public Administrator administers estates of deceased persons. There is a Public Administrator in every county in the City of New York. 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; to make appropriate burial arrangements when no close relative is available to make the decisions; to conduct thorough investigations to discover all assets; to liquidate assets at public sale or distribute assets to heirs; to 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:
- when no one else is available to handle the estate;
- whenever there are no known heirs;
- when the executor or administrator of an estate becomes ill, dies, is convicted of a felony, or is otherwise disqualified from serving while administering an estate and no one else is available.
To complete this process, the Public Administrator must sometimes employ accountants, auctioneers, and others to assist. An administrator must inventory the property of the decedent; pay taxes, make funeral arrangements, and 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 or bring lawsuits on behalf of the estate.