If there are no known heirs to an estate, or if there is no executor to an estate, a public administrator may be called in to protect it. In some cases, a public administrator might be named in a will to be the executor of an estate, or a judge might appoint one to be the executor. The latter scenario generally occurs if a named executor fails to act and part of or all of an estate may be at risk.
A public administrator is given their authority by state law, and they may be assigned to act as an executor of an estate when granted that power by a judge. If the public administrator is appointed by a judge or takes action to protect an estate, that person might be compensated for their work. State statutes provide that they are entitled to fair funds that cover reasonable fees and expenses.
Those who wish to name the public administrator as the executor of an estate should do so in their will. If possible, it would be wise to contact the proper authorities ahead of time. This will enable the public administrator’s office to be prepared to take action when necessary
As part of a proper estate plan, it is advised to name an executor as quickly as possible and communicate one’s wishes clearly. The executor will be responsible for ensuring that the testator’s wishes are properly and efficiently carried out. An attorney can provide assistance during the estate planning process and may be able to help a client choose an executor.
Source: Clark County, NV, “Public Administrator: FAQ,” Accessed Feb. 27, 2015