In most situations, the last person you would want to give the authority to administer your estate would be a former spouse. In fact, to avoid such a contingency, it’s a fairly common practice for parties to a divorce to include language in the divorce decree prohibiting either from acting as administrator of the other’s estate. A ruling from the Albany Surrogate’s Court, however, has demonstrated the importance of careful estate planning to ensure that such a result does not ensue. Here’s what happened.

In the Matter of Walsh, Jr., the deceased had a child who had priority to serve as the administrator of his estate, but the child was still a minor. Because the child could not serve as administrator, the court needed to appoint a fiduciary. The decedent’s ex-wife, mother to the child, successfully petitioned the court to be the legal guardian of the child. Once she became the legal guardian, she also had authority and became the administrator of the estate.

In response to the appointment of the ex-wife as administrator of the estate, the deceased’s brother filed a motion with the court to remove her, citing the divorce decree, which specifically stated that neither party would serve as executor or administrator of the other’s estate. The court, however, ruled against the brother, concluding that the ex-wife was not serving personally and individually as administrator, but rather as guardian of the minor child.

The upshot of the decision? You need to be very careful when you designate who will act as your administrator, and you are best served to identify specific successor administrators, in the event your primary choice is unwilling or unable to serve.

At the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, we have extensive experience representing individuals facing similar concerns. We can provide a thorough analysis of your estate planning and implement measures to ensure that your wishes are honored.

Contact the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston

At the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, we focus our estate administration practice on estates subject to probate in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island. Contact our office online or call us at 631-425-7299 to set up a free initial consultation.