Must I be an administrator of my brother's estate?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 15, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My brother passed away in New Jersey recently. No will. No assets, other than $200. and 2 junk cars, maybe a few dollars in unemployment are due. Small 401K, less than the medical debts owed, no beneficiary. As next of kin, my only interest is in having 2 junk cars removed from where he lived,. Must I file with the surrogate to be an administrator to do this? I know that I am not responsible for his debts, but shat are my responsibilities to settle his estate? What if no one does anything (contacting creditors, 401K administrator, etc)?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

In New Jersey, if a person has no surviving spouse, civil union or domestic partner and the property he or she owns does not exceed $10,000 in value, a close relative can be issued a legal affidavit to handle the disposition of the estate. It is a simple matter, handled through the surrogate court, that would enable you to easily dispose of the cars and clear up and settle any money due or owing your brother. Without that legal authorization, it is unlikely you will be able to deal with legal title transfers to property.

That written, there is no legal obligation for you to come forward.

Community Answers

Administrator sister answered...

Thank you for your comments. I was going to file with the surrogate ($99. bond and $50. filing fee, and I would need some notarized documents from other family memebers). There is no money due my brother, other than the 401K, which is dwarfed by his recent medical bills. I was informed that the junk car can be dealt with as an "abandoned vehicle", and a scrap dealer is willing to take it and handle the paperwork. Therefore, no money comes into the "estate" , so I don't have to deal with any additional paperwork, adn would not need to go through the surrogate. The other car was impounded by the police, and is not worth the daily fee, so I am not pursuing that any further.