What happens when there is no will? Estate of Anne Heche

As a NY estate lawyer it never ceases to amaze me to learn of the passing of yet another  celebrity who died without a will.  When we pass without a NY will it is called intestacy.  Rather than our NY estates going through the streamlined probate process within the New York Surrogate’s Courts the intestate estate must go through administration.  Administration is a much longer, more difficult process which can also prove to be costlier.  In NY estates, administration requires a court’s determination as to the identity of the deceased’s heirs.  The Surrogate’s Court must then determine which of the heirs, if any, would be eligible to serve as the estate’s fiduciary, also called the administrator. Sometimes, when the heirs themselves are either ineligible to serve based on various qualifications or cannot agree who will serve amongst themselves, the court may then appoint a third party to administer the NY estate.  Absent a will, the Surrogate’s Courts of New York will also require the administrator to post a bond for the estate assets which is an insurance policy against any theft or loss.  Within a NY probate the filing of a bond is almost always waived, but without a NY will the Court will require the fiduciary to have good credit for the posting of the bond.


Therefore, leaving behind an estate without a NY will, also known as Administration, will require your next of kin to qualify to be your fiduciary.  If your children are either irresponsible, minors or unable to serve as Administrator for any reason this could spell costly trouble for your heirs. Additionally, even when your next of kin are of suitable age and qualifications, they may still not be agreeable to each other serving as the Administrator in which case your NY estate could easily become embroiled in costly NY estate litigation.

Estate of Anne Heche

At the time of her passing, the 53 year old Anne Heche was considered a successful Hollywood actress who appeared in myriad of movies and productions most notably her role in the 1997 hit Donnie Brasco.  Unfortunately on August 5, 2022 the 53 year old mother of two sons, Homer and Atlas, ran off the road in her vehicle, crashing into a house and bursting into flames. Several days later Heche succumbed to her extensive injuries.

While Heche leaves behind an estate valued at between $1 million and $ 4 million dollars she failed to create an attorney drafted will.  Heche’s eldest son Homer is 20 years old, while Atlas is thirteen.  This is highly problematic as the issue of suitability to serve as the Administrator of the actress’s estate has now been raised. Heche’s estate is now being litigated in Surrogate’s Court to determine who, if anyone, will serve as the Administrator of Heche’s Estate.

Since Heche did not have a valid will, Heche’s twenty year old son Homer filed a petition for letters of administration to acquire control of the estate.  Unfortunately Homer’s younger brother Atlas has now filed objections to his appointment as Administrator as “not suitable”.  Each of Heche’s sons are from different fathers. There is a question as to whether Atlas’s father James Tupper may have a conflict of interest between the interests of the Anne Heche Estate and her own distributees.  In Court filings it is alleged James Tupper, Atlas’s father, may have misappropriated funds from Anne Heche which now creates a conflict of interest between himself and the Estate.  In an interesting twist, on Wednesday the judge presiding over the Anne Heche Estate determined that the Court will allow 20 year old Homer to be appointed Administrator of the within Estate.

As you can see, passing without a NY estate lawyer drafted and supervised will can create many hardships and challenges for those trying to administer your affairs after you are gone.  Any NY estate lawyer will tell you the best way to avoid these difficulties is to protect your wealth by drafting your NY will ahead of time.  The process is cheap, easy and once the documents are created you never have to think about it again.  For those who fail to have a NY estate lawyer draft their wills, there is a very strong likelihood that costly litigation and avoidable aggravation will ensue.

If you or a loved one are thinking about planning your estate and would like to speak with a New York estate lawyer feel free to call The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation. Our NY estate lawyers have more than 60 combined years of NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Richmond, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, and Dutchess.

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