Reasons To Have A Special Administrator
There are two main reasons to petition the Court to have a Special Administrator appointed.
- The first, and most common is that it is not known what assets need to be probated and it is necessary to have someone with court appointed authority to ask various institutions about the Decedent's assets.
- The second is that there is a need to get someone appointed right away to protect assets. Less commonly, a Special Administrator can be appointed if the already appointed Personal Representative dies, unexpectedly resigns, or is removed by the Court and there is a need to have someone immediately take over.
Determining What the Assets Are:
The following is often a very frustrating situation for the heirs: A relative dies owning, say a Wells Fargo bank account. If the heirs have access online to the account or to the Decedent's mail, they can get a statement, see how much money is in the account and with a probate attorney select the proper probate procedure to handle the estate. See Types of Probate In Nevada. But, if the heirs cannot get access to the bank statement they will find that Wells Fargo will tell them, "Sorry, we can't give you that information without a court order appointing you a personal representative of the estate." (There is one exception. If the heir thinks he or she might be named as a payable on death beneficiary on the account they can present the bank with a certified copy of the death certificate and demand the account proceeds. The bank should give it to them if they are in fact the payable on death beneficiary.)
Sometimes, say the adult daughter of her deceased father will go to his bank and be told "off the record" that there is about $80,000 in the account but the bank won't provide a statement. Or our client may say, "I was able to go online and see that there was $80,000 in the account but I didn't print out the balance and now that the bank knows my father died, they have shut-off online access to the account."
Total Value of Estate Under $100,000
If it is believed that the total value of estate is under $100,000 so that a set-aside procedure, the cheapest and fastest one is appropriate, the Court will be very strict in demanding that there is written proof (such as a recent bank statement) as to how much is in the account.
Total Value of Estate Over $100,000 and No More Than $300,000
If it is believed that the value of the estate is over $100,000 but not more than $300,000 so that Summary Administration is appropriate, the Court will be more willing to take our estimate of the value of the estate. However, if we file for Summary Administration and ultimately the estate is over $300,000, we will have to go to some trouble to convert the Summary Administration to General Administration.
Special Administrator To Access Account Information
Sometimes it makes sense for the heir and their attorney to petition the Court to appoint the heir as Special Administrator. In this case, the only authority the Special Administrator will have is to demand that the bank divulge the account information. After this is done the heir and attorney can Petition to Terminate the Special Administration and convert the procedure into the proper probate procedure which would be either a Set Aside Without Administration, a Summary Administration or a General Administration.
Special Administrator To Access Medical Records
Perhaps, someone died unexpectedly and the heirs suspect medical malpractice. In that case it would make sense to appoint a Special Administrator for the purpose of having authority to collect the medical records on the Decedent to determine if a medical malpractice case is justified. Important Note: There is usually only a ONE YEAR statute of limitations for medical malpractice actions in Nevada.
Suppose a person who is the sole proprietor of a business dies. Let's say the business is worth over $300,000 which will ultimately require a General Administration Probate. Someone has to step in to keep the business running so it doesn't die while going through the probate process. A Special Administrator can do this.
Cautions When Appointing A Special Administrator
When Appointing a Special Administrator is a Gamble
Occasionally we get a potential client who has a fairly old statement showing that their recently deceased father has a large financial account. But the statement is a few years old and the potential client doesn't know if there was anything left in the account when their father died. In such a case we can get the client appointed Special Administrator with authority to question the financial institution about the father's account. But if the answer comes back that the account was closed or there is only a few bucks left in the account, the client's money was wasted hiring us to appoint him or her as special administrator. As a general rule, if the account was still open, it should have been generating periodic mail statements. However, now that online access is in many cases replacing mailed statements, it become harder for potential heirs to learn about assets and their amounts without being appointed as a Special Administrator and without know which institutions might hold the Decedent's money.
When Appointing a Special Administrator is Unnecessary
If you have to a Summary or General Administration probate anyway because there is over $100,000 of known assets, then the appointed Executor or Administrator will have the authority to question financial institutions about any account the Decedent might have had.