Hi, good afternoon, my name is Jonathan Barlow. I'm a probate attorney at Clear Counsel Law Group. There was a recent very famous case that has just recently come up due to the death of Prince in Minnesota, the famous musician Prince.
When he died, it turns out that no one could find a will which was a pretty shocking result for somebody who was extremely wealthy and extremely well-to-do that he had not apparently done any estate planning, not even a basic and simple will.
The question's been asked of me, what happens in that situation? What happens in the Valley in that situation?
What Happened in Minnesota
First let's take a look at what happened in Minnesota. The sister of Prince filed a petition or a request with the probate court there asking that she'd be appointed as what is called the special administrator, somebody with court authority to handle Prince's estate, gather his assets, start getting their arms around what's happening with the estate.
It turns out that for whatever reason though, the Minnesota court appointed a third party independent trust company to fulfill that role, to act as the special administrator rather than the family member.
The question is, can that also happen in Nevada? Could a third party administrator or a third party company be appointed and inserted into the estate to handle the estate in place of the family member?
Will Nevada Appoint a Special Administrator?
The short answer to that is yes, that can happen. However, it's important to note that family in Nevada, the family members of the deceased have the priority or the highest entitlement to serve as that administrator after somebody dies.
The Nevada Statutes are drafted to give the closest next of kin the highest and first right to request to be named as the administrator of the estate with authority to take care of the estate. There's a preference and priority for the family.
However, there are certain times when either the family doesn't come forward to do that or the situation is simply not appropriate to have a family member fulfill that role and that position as the administrator.
Those situations could be where there's a conflict of interest between the administrator and the estate, or the family member and the estate, excuse me, or there's allegations that that family member has participated in some form of wrongdoing against the estate or the decedent or that they would not be able to fulfill the job appropriately or that they wouldn't know what they're doing basically.
Basically some reason that it would not be appropriate to have that family member who otherwise has the highest priority to be in that position to serve.
When that happens, yes, it is possible that a Nevada court, the probate judge here can appoint a third party neutral company or individual to serve as the administrator of the estate.
The Two Types of Nevada Administrator
That could be usually one of two people or one of two options. There are professional companies, usually they're called trust companies, that can be appointed to serve as the administrator of the estate.
There doesn't necessarily have to be a trust involved in order to serve that position. These are companies, it's their job and profession to handle estates and deal with those matters.
Uniquely in Nevada, we have an elected official called the public administrator and it's his job as a publicly elected official to serve as the administrator of estates when there's not a family member or when there's otherwise a reason to throw it out to a third party independent party to serve in that position.
Those are usually the two ways that we see that go out to a third party to handle the administration either to a private trust company or to the public administrator in his office. Now, that begs the question of course, how does the third party become inserted into this situation?
Usually, it's very rare that the third party itself would come forward and say, "Hey, here we are. We want to insert ourselves here into this situation."
Usually that comes one of two ways where the third party gets appointed.
How a Special Administrator is Appointed
One of the other family members could come forward and say, "Hey listen, my sister has requested appointment, but I don't think it's appropriate for her to serve for whatever reason.
She doesn't know what she's doing. It would be a conflict of interest," one of those things that we talked about earlier, "and so, court, would you please appoint a third party neutral administrator? That's really what we need." Somebody in the family could request the appointment of a third party.
Also, interestingly though, and we see this frequently especially here in Clark County with the probate judge here in Clark County, the judge on his own, acting on his own accord could look at the situation and say, "You know what? There's nobody in the family appropriate to do this. They're fighting. It's a disaster.
It would be inappropriate for this situation of the estate to have them, so I on my own accord am going to appoint a third party," whether that's the third party trust company or the public administrator's office. The judge on his own could throw that out and have it be appointed to a third party to do that situation.
Will a Special Administrator Only Be Appointed for Large Estates?
Now the question is, does this only happen when it's a really large estate like Prince in Minnesota? Prince is obviously very wealthy, has a lot of intellectual property rights, a lot of things that need to be protected.
The answer is no.
I've seen this happen with estates of all sizes, from very, very small estates, less than a hundred thousand dollars where the family members can't agree, where there's disputes, and the public administrator usually with those smaller ones will become involved through the court appointing the public administrator.
Of course, it can go all the way up to very, very large estates.
The answer is no, it could happen with any size of estate, any amount of assets that we're dealing with, any time that there's a dispute or otherwise non-appropriate situation to appoint a family member, we're going to usually see a third party become appointed as the administrator of the estate.
If you have concerns about this and you think that it might be appropriate in your situation to have a third party become involved and want to know how that happens or you've had a third party appointed and you're not happy with that situation, these are questions that I have a lot of experience with.
Our attorneys here in the office can help you walk through those questions, those issues, and try to find a resolution to it, so give us a call here at Clear Counsel. For more information about these issues, I encourage you to check out our blog at clearcounsel.com, and we'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.