In a recent court conference in Queens County Surrogate’s Court, Surrogate Peter J. Kelly indicated that, all else being equal, he’s inclined to appoint as administrator of an estate the first to file their petition when there are multiple distributees equally entitled to letters of administration.

In the case before Surrogate Kelly, my client, one of two children of the decedent, petitioned for letters of administration months prior to his sibling. The petitioner and cross-petitioner were the decedent’s closest surviving relatives and the only distributees of his estate pursuant to EPTL § 4-1.1.

Pursuant to SCPA § 1001(1)(f)(i): “Where there are eligible distributees equally entitled to administer the court may grant letters of administration to one or more of such persons.”

Generally, where there are multiple distributees equally entitled to letters of administration, the Court is authorized to exercise its discretion in choosing who to appoint as administrator. 

In Matter of Meltzer, Dutchess County Surrogate James D. Pagones wrote:

[T]he Court must exercise its discretion in granting letters of administration to either the petitioner, cross-petitioner or a neutral third party (citations omitted). In exercising its discretion to select one of multiple distributees to grant letters of administration, the Court may consider such factors as each distributee’s (1) relationship with the decedent; (2) business experience; and, (3) familiarity with the decedent’s affairs (citation omitted)Ultimately, the court will use its discretion and appoint the distributee whose appointment the court deems to be in the estate’s best interest (citation omitted).

Surrogate Kelly’s comments during my conference indicate that, all else being equal, he is inclined to appoint as sole administrator the first to file.