NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A919
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the surrogate's court procedure act, in relation to
establishing a division of the public administrator within the office of
the corporation counsel for the city of New York; and to repeal certain
provisions of such act relating thereto
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
This bill will eliminate Borough Public Administrators to the Surro-
gate's Court in New York City and replace it with a division within the
NYC Corporation Counsel's office.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section 1. Repeals Article 11 of the surrogate's court procedure act and
replaces it with a new Article 11 entitled "Division of the Public
Administrator for the City of New York."
§ 1102. Creates a division of the public administrator within the office
of the corporation counsel. The office shall be headed by a director
appointed by the mayor and shall serve at the mayor's pleasure.
§ 1103. The director appoints other officers and employees subject to
civil service law. The powers of the director are prescribed and include
all powers of a fiduciary of a decedents estate.
§ 1104. The director is required to take a constitutional oath prior to
§ 1105. The director retains moneys from the disposition of the estate
for disbursement or to pay reasonable and necessary expenses as fixed by
the court. The director shall pay all remaining commissions and allow-
ances received to the treasury of the city. These funds shall be used by
the city to offset expenses of the division.
§ 1106. All funds shall be deposited into accounts set up by the divi-
sion within 5 business days of receipt. Interest received from these
funds shall be credited to the respective estates.
§ 1107. The City of New York shall be responsible for the faithful
execution of the director for all the duties of the division. Also, any
person who is disadvantaged because of an action or omission of the
division shall be entitled to every remedy against the city of New York
that would typically be available to a fiduciary.
§ 1108. The director will have the authority to take possession of,
manage, and collect the rents of real and personal property whenever a
person dies intestate without a surviving eligible person to receive
letters in New York, whenever any personal property of the deceased
arrives in a county in the city of New York, and whenever surviving
relations are unknown the director shall use all reasonable steps in an
investigation of all living distributees.
§ 1109. Any person who owns a hotel, boarding, or rooming house must
report to the director, in writing, of any deaths that occur in that
house within twelve hours. The chief medical examiner shall also send
the director a report within twelve hours of the death. Undertakers with
a business in the city of New York must report all orders of burial of
people with unknown distributees, or no direct relations.
§ 1110. The director can make inquiries into any case where he or she
has the authority in the estate. The director can also issue subpoenas
in these situations. Failure to comply with the subpoenas will result in
contempt of court.
§ 1111. The director has the authority to act with the powers of a fidu-
ciary of a deceased's estate if it meets the requirements of a small
estate. The director shall apply for all letters when the monetary
amount does not qualify an estate as small. When a debtor, transfer
agent, or a person holding personal property of the decedent produces a
certificate of authority, a receipt, and the surrender of evidentiary
documents, a complete release and discharge of any payment of money or
property shall occur.
§ 1112. The director is authorized to apply for, and receive, letters.
The court can direct the director to present a petition for probate of a
will at any time after it is filed.
§ 1113. No employee of the division, including the director, shall be
required to file the separate bond or oath required by section 708 of
this act before the issuance of letters to the director. 1114. The
director has certain powers before the issuance of letters. The direc-
tor can take possession of, collect, and secure the personal property of
any person who dies intestate or testate. This is under the conditions
that this person dies within this state, the property arrives in a coun-
ty where there is no person eligible to act as a fiduciary, or if the
executor neglects or refuses their duty. The director can take
possession of, manage, and collect the rents of an intestate whose
distributees are not known, or if known, they refuse to act. The direc-
tor can pay the funeral expenses of the deceased. The director can sell
perishable property or any other property required by the preservation
of the estate. The director can sell at public auctions any property
that has been delivered to him or her by a hospital or police depart-
ment. The director can pay the expenses of the foregoing activities and
any expenses that are incidental to his or her application for letters.
§ 1115. When the estate is an alien's, the director must mail a notice
to the consular representative of the nation of which the decedent was a
§ 1116. In any action by or against the director where an alien is a
necessary party a consul of that nation can appear on behalf of or as an
attorney for the alien. No specific condition is necessary for such an
appearance. Service can be conducted for an alien without prior service
upon that alien. The interests of an alien under disability shall be
represented in all proceedings by guardians, committee, or conservators
of the property.
§ 1117. If any eligible distributee shall file to supersede the director
within 4 months after the director became fiduciary, the letters shall
be granted to them. The court can refuse to supersede the director's
powers if six months have passed.
§ 1118. When the director has been superseded he or she shall turn over
all personal property of the estate after deducting his or her expenses,
costs, and commissions by law.
§ 1119. When the director is a party of an estate, he or she can appeal
from any order, decree, or judgment. On such an appeal no bond is neces-
sary for the director to stay execution of the order, decree, or judg-
§ 1120. Whenever the director receives papers or property of a deceased
whose property is not sufficient to require administration, the director
is authorized to abandon or destroy all papers and property provided
that it is five years after the death, and there is proof that these
papers and property are without value. The director, the division, and
the city of New York shall not be liable or held to account for such
property. After ten years of the completion of the administration of an
estate, the director is authorized to destroy the file and all of the
papers. The director, division, and city of New York shall not be held
liable or held to account of such action. A new section 1220 will
continue an administrative board currently in the old Article XI which
we are repealing by this act.
This change in the administration of estates in the City of New York
will professionalize and de-politicize the practice. There have been
many examples of public administrators being appointed as favors.
Furthermore, not all of these public administrators have performed their
jobs with integrity one would expect from a public servant
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
A11508 of 2006
A5098 of 2007-08
A6758 of 2009-10
A4931 of 2011-12
A4282 of 2016
A3616 of 2017-18
A3364 of 2019-20
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS TO STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT:
To be determined.
This act will take effect on the first of January next succeeding the
date on which it shall have become law.
STATE OF NEW YORK
2021-2022 Regular Sessions
January 6, 2021
Introduced by M. of A. CARROLL, GOTTFRIED -- read once and referred to
the Committee on Judiciary
AN ACT to amend the surrogate's court procedure act, in relation to
establishing a division of the public administrator within the office
of the corporation counsel for the city of New York; and to repeal
certain provisions of such act relating thereto
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-bly, do enact as follows:
1 Section 1. Article 11 of the surrogate's court procedure act is
2 REPEALED and a new article 11 is added to read as follows:
3 ARTICLE 11
4 DIVISION OF THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE CITY OF
5 NEW YORK
6 Section 1101. Definitions.
7 1102. Division of the public administrator; director; employees.
8 1103. General powers of the director.
9 1104. Oath and bond.
10 1105. Commissions.
11 1106. Deposit of funds.
12 1107. Responsibility of the city.
13 1108. Authority to act.
14 1109. Reports of deaths and burials.
15 1110. Inquiry and subpoena.
16 1111. Letters not required for small estates.
17 1112. Application for letters; when court may direct probate.
18 1113. No separate bond or oath.
19 1114. Powers before issuance of letters.
20 1115. Notice to consuls.
21 1116. Appearance by consuls.
22 1117. Grant of letters to others.
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.
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1 1118. Delivery of estate assets to fiduciary; expenses, costs
2 and commissions.
3 1119. Appeal; bond.
4 1120. Property without value where no administration had.
5 1121. Disposition of records after 10 years.
6 § 1101. Definitions
7 For purposes of this article, the following terms shall have the
8 following meanings:
9 1. "Division" shall mean the division of public administrator estab-
10 lished by section 1102 of this article.
11 2. "Director" shall mean the director of the division.
12 § 1102. Division of the public administrator; director; employees
13 1. There is hereby created within the office of the corporation coun-
14 sel for the city of New York, a division of the public administrator to
15 have and exercise the functions, powers and duties provided by the
16 provisions of this article.
17 2. The head of the office shall be the director, who shall be
18 appointed by the mayor of the city of New York, and shall hold office at
19 the pleasure of the mayor by whom he or she was appointed or until his
20 or her successor is appointed and has qualified.
21 3. Subject to the provisions of this article and the civil service
22 law, and rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, the director
23 may appoint such other officers and employees as may be necessary,
24 prescribe their duties, fix their compensation and provide for payment
25 of their reasonable expenses, all within amounts as may be allowed annu-
26 ally in the budget of the city of New York. The director may transfer
27 officers or employees from their positions to other positions in the
28 division, or abolish or consolidate such positions.
29 4. The director acting by and through the division shall have powers
30 set forth in section 1103 of this article.
31 § 1103. General powers of the director
32 1. The director shall have all the powers specifically granted pursu-
33 ant to this article and also the powers given by law to a fiduciary of a
34 decedent's estate.
35 2. In addition to the foregoing grant of powers and without limitation
36 thereon the director is authorized to:
37 (a) Sell personal property of the decedent at public auction pursuant
38 to notice appearing for 3 successive days prior to the sale in a newspa-
39 per published in the county having jurisdiction over the estate.
40 (b) Retain marketable securities beyond 4 months after letters have
41 been granted to him or her provided that the court has so permitted by
43 (c) Serve process on creditors, legatees or other persons interested,
44 distributees, domiciled outside the city of New York by certified mail,
45 return receipt requested, whenever directed by the court by order in any
46 proceeding, notwithstanding the provisions of section 308 of this act.
47 Such service shall be valid if made at least 30 days before the return
48 date thereof.
49 (d) Distribute without an accounting proceeding the assets of any
50 estate defined as a small estate in subdivision 1 of section 1301 of
51 this act and upon distribution to take the costs and commissions ordi-
52 narily allowed by the court upon the entry of a decree upon final
54 (e) File in the court an informatory account in a form prescribed by
55 rule where the gross value of the assets of the estate accounted for is
56 more than $500 and less than that as defined as a small estate in subdi-
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1 vision 1 of section 1301 of this act and shall serve a copy of such
2 informatory accounting by certified mail on all interested parties at
3 least 30 days prior to filing with the court.
4 (f) Pay for the use and benefit of an infant distributee or legatee
5 who has no guardian of the property the share of legacy due the infant
6 if not exceeding $5,000 by payment thereof in the discretion of the
7 director to a parent or to an adult competent person with whom the
8 infant resides.
9 (g) Pay or deliver to the commissioner of finance of the city of New
10 York the balance of any moneys or other assets in his or her hands
11 remaining after settlement of his or her account or the filing of an
12 informatory account, where payable to persons under disability or whose
13 shares are to be deposited pursuant to section 2218 of this act.
14 (h) Apply ex parte or upon such notice as directed by the court for an
15 order or decree in any appropriate proceeding requiring the city of New
16 York to return to the director any money or unliquidated assets thereto-
17 fore deposited by the director and remaining in the treasury of the city
18 of New York and upon further order of the court to make distribution of
19 such recovered funds to the persons entitled thereto.
20 (i) Receive process or other notice as a necessary party in the
21 following proceedings:
22 (1) Any proceeding pending in the court where service of process or
23 notice in behalf of any known or unknown person is directed by the court
24 or where the court by order directs the director to appear therein.
25 (2) Every proceeding for the appointment of an administrator or for
26 the probate of a will where it does not appear that the persons applying
27 or named in the petition are all the distributees of the decedent or
28 where it appears that such persons are related to the decedent in the
29 fourth degree of consanguinity or are more remotely related.
30 (3) Ever proceeding to effect distribution of moneys or property
31 deposited for the account of unknown persons or of infants or incompe-
32 tents, or of known persons whose shares were deposited pursuant to
33 section 2218 of this act. In any such proceeding the director shall be
34 deemed a person interested.
35 (4) In all such proceedings the director, in his or her discretion,
36 may take any action in behalf of such person or persons as a person
37 interested might.
38 (j) Designate a designee from within the division to act on his or her
40 § 1104. Oath and bond
41 The director of the division before entering upon the duties of his or
42 her office shall take and file the constitutional oath of office.
43 § 1105. Commissions
44 1. The director shall retain over and above all necessary expenses
45 upon all moneys which shall come under the control of the division the
46 same commissions as are now or may hereafter be allowed by law to fidu-
47 ciaries under section 2307 of this act.
48 2. The value of any real or personal property and the increment there-
49 of received, disbursed or delivered shall be considered as money in
50 computing commissions, except where the real or personal property has
51 been specifically devised or bequeathed.
52 3. On the settlement of the account of the division in each instance,
53 notwithstanding the provisions of subdivisions 1 and 2 of this section,
54 the court may allow reasonable and necessary expenses and disbursements
55 of the division, and in addition, to be fixed by the court.
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1 4. The commissions and allowances provided for by this section may be
2 retained by the director in preference to any debts or claims except
3 funeral expenses.
4 5. The director shall pay into the treasury of the city of New York
5 all commissions and allowances received by the division from any source.
6 Such funds shall be used by the city to offset the expenses of the divi-
7 sion and the compensation paid to the director, officers and employees
8 of the division.
9 § 1106. Deposit of funds
10 1. The director shall deposit all moneys collected and received by the
11 division within 5 days after receipt in demand, time, thrift or other
12 accounts in one or more banks or trust companies designated by the
13 mayor, comptroller and commissioner of finance of the deposit of moneys
14 of the city of New York. All interest received on such deposits shall be
15 credited to the respective estates. In case of the insolvency or invol-
16 untary liquidation of the depository all money so deposited shall be
17 entitled to equal priority of payment with that given by law to deposits
18 of money by the state superintendent of banks.
19 2. The director shall whenever required exhibit to the city comp-
20 troller and the surrogate of the county with jurisdiction over the
21 estate the bank books or statements and all other vouchers and documents
22 relating to the division. The comptroller and surrogate shall examine
23 the bank books and statements showing the deposits and the vouchers on
24 which the check is required to be drawn and shall satisfy himself or
25 herself fully as to the correctness thereof and in case of doubt or
26 difficulty he or she shall report the case to the mayor for his or her
28 § 1107. Responsibility of the city
29 1. The city of New York shall be answerable for the faithful execution
30 by the director of all the duties of the division and for the applica-
31 tion by him or her of all moneys and property received by the division
32 and for all moneys and securities and the interest, earnings and divi-
33 dends thereon actually received by the division or which the division
34 should have collected or received.
35 2. Any person aggrieved by any act or omission of the division and any
36 person entitled to receive any money or property for which the division
37 may be held to account, shall have each and every remedy against the
38 city of New York as would be available against a fiduciary in like case
39 and may initiate in the surrogate's court having jurisdiction a proceed-
40 ing for the enforcement of his or her claim or right and shall serve
41 process thereon on the comptroller of the city. The director then in
42 office shall be a necessary party in such proceeding.
43 § 1108. Authority to act
44 The director shall have authority to take possession of, manage and
45 collect the rents of the real property and take charge of the personal
46 property of an intestate:
47 1. Whenever any person not known to have left him or her surviving a
48 person eligible to receive letters shall die intestate either within
49 this state or elsewhere leaving any real or personal property within a
50 county located within the city of New York.
51 2. Whenever any personal property of such intestate shall arrive with-
52 in a county located within the city of New York after his or her death.
53 3. Whenever all of the surviving relatives are not known the director
54 shall conduct a search for all living distributees of the decedent by
55 reference to bank, postal, and telephone records and inquiry of neigh-
A. 919 5
1 bors, and other reasonable steps under the circumstances. The director
2 shall maintain records of all responses to such notices.
3 § 1109. Reports of deaths and burials
4 1. Every person keeping a hotel, boarding or rooming house in any coun-
5 ty located within the city of New York shall report in writing to the
6 director information concerning every person not a member of his or her
7 family who shall die in his or her hotel or house within 12 hours after
8 such death.
9 2. The chief medical examiner or such similar public officer of any
10 county located within the city of New York within 12 hours after an
11 inquest shall report in writing to the director, such information
12 regarding the decedent which he or she may have.
13 3. Every undertaker doing business in a county located within the city
14 of New York shall file a report in writing with the director within 12
15 hours after receiving an order for the burial by him or her of any dece-
16 dent having no known distributees or having been survived only by cous-
17 ins or relatives by marriage, such information regarding the decedent
18 which he or she may have.
19 § 1110. Inquiry and subpoena
20 1. The director may institute an inquiry in any case in which he or
21 she is authorized to act as to any matter affecting the estate of the
23 2. For the purposes set forth in subdivision 1 of this section, the
24 director may issue a subpoena or subpoena duces tecum either before or
25 after the issuance of letters in the name of the court with the same
26 effect as if either were issued by the court.
27 3. Failure to comply with the directions of the subpoena or subpoena
28 duces tecum shall be punishable as a contempt of court.
29 § 1111. Letters not required for small estates
30 1. Without the issuance of letters the director by virtue of his or
31 her office shall have all the powers of a fiduciary of a decedent's
32 estate whenever the gross assets of the estate do not exceed the mone-
33 tary amount defined as a small estate pursuant to subdivision 1 of
34 section 1301 of this act.
35 2. In the event the aggregate sum of the assets of an estate in which
36 the director commences to act pursuant to subdivision 1 of this section
37 shall exceed the monetary amount defined as a small estate pursuant to
38 subdivision 1 of section 1301 of this act the director shall forthwith
39 apply for letters.
40 3. The delivery by the director to a debtor, transfer agent or person
41 holding personal property of the decedent of a certificate evidencing
42 his or her authority to act under this section, his or her receipt and
43 the surrender of any evidentiary document shall constitute a complete
44 release and discharge for any payment of money or delivery of property
45 made pursuant to the certificate without such person being required to
46 see to the application thereof and with the same effect as if made to
47 any other fiduciary.
48 § 1112. Application for letters; when court may direct probate
49 1. The director is authorized to apply for and receive letters as
50 defined in this act.
51 2. The court may direct the director to present a petition for probate
52 of a will at any time after it is filed.
53 § 1113. No separate bond or oath
54 The director or any officer or employee of the division shall not be
55 required to file the designation, separate bond or oath required by
56 section 708 of this act before the issuance of letters to the director.
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1 § 1114. Powers before issuance of letters
2 Before letters are issued to the director the director is authorized
4 1. Take possession of, collect and secure the personal property within
5 his or her county of any person who shall die intestate or testate with-
6 in this state or elsewhere or whose property shall arrive within the
7 county after his or her death whenever there is no person eligible to
8 act as fiduciary of an intestate or of a testator, if the executor named
9 in the will refuses or neglects to act or is dead or his or her where-
10 abouts are unknown or if he or she is not eligible to receive letters.
11 2. Take possession of, manage and collect the rents of the real prop-
12 erty of an intestate whose distributees are unknown or, whose distribu-
13 tees if known, are non-domiciliaries or of a testator if the executor
14 named in the will refuses or neglects to act or is dead or his or her
15 whereabouts are unknown or if he or she is not eligible to receive
17 3. Pay the funeral expenses of the decedent.
18 4. Sell as and when authorized by the court perishable property or
19 such other property of the decedent as the preservation of the estate
21 5. Sell at public auction all property delivered to him or her as the
22 effects of persons whose deaths have been reported to him or her by a
23 hospital, the police department or any other department or person.
24 6. Defray the expenses of the foregoing activities and the expenses
25 incidental to his or her application for letters.
26 § 1115. Notice to consuls
27 When the estate is that of an alien it shall be the duty of the direc-
28 tor when making application for letters to mail a notice to the consular
29 representative of the nation of which the decedent was a citizen or
30 subject if there be any in the city of New York.
31 § 1116. Appearance by consuls
32 1. In any action or proceeding brought by or against the director in
33 which a non-domiciliary alien is a necessary or proper party the consu-
34 lar representative of the country of which the alien is a citizen or
35 subject may appear in person or by attorney in behalf of the alien if
36 the latter shall default in appearance.
37 2. No power of attorney or other specific authority from the alien
38 shall be required as a condition to such appearance.
39 3. Service upon an alien pursuant to paragraph (e) of subdivision 3 of
40 section 307 of this act may be made without prior service of process
41 personally or otherwise upon the alien.
42 4. The interests of alien persons under disability shall, however, be
43 represented in all such proceedings by their guardians of the property,
44 committee of the property or conservators of the property, or by guardi-
45 ans ad litem appointed by the court.
46 § 1117. Grant of letters to others
47 If any eligible distributee of the decedent shall petition to super-
48 sede the director within 4 months after the director has become vested
49 with the powers of a fiduciary on the estate, letters shall be granted
50 to him or her upon proof that the petitioner did not receive notice of
51 the application by the director and upon the further showing that all
52 persons prior or equal in right have been served and have defaulted or
53 waived; but the court may refuse to supersede the director if 6 months
54 have elapsed since he or she became vested with the powers of a fiduci-
A. 919 7
1 § 1118. Delivery of estate assets to fiduciary; expenses, costs and
3 When the director has been superseded he or she shall account and
4 deliver to the fiduciary superseding him or her all the personal proper-
5 ty belonging to the estate which he or she has in his or her possession
6 or control after deducting his or her expenses, costs and commissions as
7 provided by law.
8 § 1119. Appeal; bond
9 1. The director is authorized to appeal from any order, decree or
10 judgment affecting an estate in the charge of the division or in which
11 he or she is a party.
12 2. On such an appeal no bond on the part of the director shall be
13 required to stay execution of the order, decree or judgment appealed
15 § 1120. Property without value where no administration had
16 Whenever the director shall receive papers or property of a decedent
17 upon whose estate no letters have been issued or whose property is not
18 sufficient to require administration, the director is authorized to
19 abandon or destroy all such papers and property in the possession of the
20 division after 5 years have elapsed from the death of the decedent and
21 upon proof satisfactory to the director that they are without value. The
22 director, the division and the city of New York shall not be liable or
23 held to account for such property.
24 § 1121. Disposition of records after 10 years
25 The director is authorized to destroy the file and all of the papers
26 relating to a decedent after the lapse of 10 years from the completion
27 of the administration of his or her estate. The director, the division
28 and the city of New York shall not be liable or held to account for such
30 § 2. The surrogate's court procedure act is amended by adding a new
31 section 1220 to read as follows:
32 § 1220. Administrative board for the offices of the public administra-
34 1. An administrative board for the offices of the public administra-
35 tors of the state of New York is hereby created. The board shall consist
36 of 13 members of whom 5 shall be surrogate court judges, 1 each selected
37 by the presiding justice of the appellate divisions of the first, third
38 and fourth departments and 2 selected by the presiding justice of the
39 appellate division of the second department of whom 1 shall be a surro-
40 gate from a county within the city of New York and 1 shall be a surro-
41 gate from a county outside the city of New York, 3 members shall be
42 selected by the chief administrative judge of the state of New York, 2
43 members shall be selected by the president of the New York state bar
44 association of whom 1 shall be a resident of the city of New York and 1
45 member each shall be selected by the state comptroller, the attorney
46 general and the president of the New York state surrogates' association.
47 The 3 members selected by the chief administrative judge of the state of
48 New York, and the members selected by the state comptroller, the attor-
49 ney general, and the president of the New York state bar association,
50 shall not be surrogate court judges or employees of the surrogates
51 court. Each member shall serve without compensation but shall be reim-
52 bursed for expenses actually and necessarily incurred in the performance
53 of his or her official duties for the board from the moneys appropriated
54 to the office of court administration. Notwithstanding any inconsistent
55 provisions of this or any other law, general, special or local, no offi-
56 cer or employee of the state or any public corporation, as defined in
A. 919 8
1 article 2-A of the general construction law, shall be deemed to have
2 forfeited or shall forfeit his or her office or employment or any bene-
3 fits provided under the retirement and social security law or under any
4 public retirement system maintained by the state or any of its subdivi-
5 sions by reason of his or her being a member of the board.
6 2. The board shall establish guidelines and uniform fee schedules for
7 the operation of the offices of public administrators. These guidelines
8 shall include but are not limited to rules for the initial inspection of
9 the decedent's premises and guidelines for the selection and compen-
10 sation of investigators, appraisers, accountants, warehouses, auctio-
11 neers and procedures for the disposal of personal property. With
12 respect to real property the board shall be responsible for preparing
13 uniform procedures for sale; fixing a schedule of approved expenses
14 attendant to such a sale; appraisals, title fees and broker's commis-
16 § 3. This act shall take effect on the first of January next succeed-
17 ing the date on which it shall have become a law.