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What is the Letter of Administration in NY?

Posted on November 20, 2023


When a person passes away without a Will in New York, the distribution of their assets is determined by the state’s laws and procedures. To probate a will in New York, obtaining a letter of administration is one of the first steps that an administrator must take. These letters are utilized to designate one of the heirs as the estate’s administrator, granting them the power to collect and distribute the deceased’s assets.

In the event that your deceased family member did not leave a Will, a skilled Long Island estate planning attorney can help you in obtaining letters of administration and guide you through the administration process. At Schlessel Law PLLC, our team of experienced New York probate lawyers may be able to provide valuable assistance and support in probating an estate in New York when there is no Will. Call us at (516) 574-9630 to schedule a consultation.

What is a Letter of Administration?

When someone passes away without leaving a will, the Letters of Administration are issued to designate an administrator for their estate. It is issued by the Surrogate’s Court after the appropriate petition has been filed and approved. With the Letters of Administration, an heir can be designated as the administrator of the estate, which grants them the authority to collect and distribute the deceased person’s assets. Once appointed, the administrator can act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate in various settings, such as managing movable and immovable properties and overseeing estate business with financial institutions, government agencies, hospitals, and other places.

What are the Types of Letters of Administration?

Each estate is unique, and the letters of administration required to permit their distribution vary accordingly. As an administrator, it’s important to be aware of the different types of letters that may be needed in various situations. 

Ancillary Letters of Administration

When an individual from another state passes away with property in New York, any party who has received Letters of Administration from that state must take specific legal steps to allow their authority to be recognized in New York State. The administrator is required to submit a formal petition for Ancillary Letters of Administration to the New York Surrogate’s Court in the county where the property is located.

A New York ancillary administration proceeding will be conducted by the court to review the validity of the Letters of Administration obtained from another state. This process involves providing the court with a copy of the out-of-state Letters of Administration, along with a certified copy of the death certificate, a list of the decedent’s New York assets, and any other relevant documents.

Once the court has verified the validity of the out-of-state Letters of Administration, it will issue Ancillary Letters of Administration, allowing the administrator to manage and distribute the decedent’s assets. These assets may include real estate, personal property, and any other property owned by the decedent in New York.

Limited Letters of Administration

The Surrogate’s Court also issues Limited Letters of Administration, which grant authority to an individual to carry out particular and restricted duties. These may include initiating legal action, examining estate assets, or conducting a discovery and turnover proceeding. 

The Court bestows only the authority that is necessary for completing the assigned task upon the recipient of Limited Letters of Administration. For instance, the individual may be authorized to commence a lawsuit but not to resolve it or distribute the funds to the estate’s heirs without seeking additional court approval.

The Surrogates Court will approve Limited Letters only when it is deemed beneficial for the Estate. It typically takes several weeks to several months to complete the procedure.

Temporary Letters of Administration

Temporary Letters of Administration have a six-month validity and are granted when there is a foreseeable delay in obtaining full Letters of Administration but immediate action is necessary to safeguard the Estate’s interests. This may occur in situations such as:

  • when obtaining jurisdiction over all necessary parties is time-consuming
  • when obtaining waivers and consent from all parties is not possible
  • when trying to probate a lost will’s copy
  • when the nominated executor renounces the position or is unsuitable due to incompetence

Additionally, Temporary Letters of Administration may be issued in instances where an individual is absent, meaning they have disappeared or are alleged to be deceased but still have property in the state.

Types of Letters of Administration Purpose
Limited Letters of Administration Used for limited functions such as initiating a lawsuit or investigating estate assets.
Temporary Letters of Administration Issued in urgent situations or when there are delays in obtaining standard Letters of Administration, valid for six months.
Ancillary Letters of Administration Required when a decedent from another state leaves property in New York, allowing administrators to manage these assets.

Who Can Apply For Letters Of Administration?

Under the Intestate Succession Act, the court designates an administrator to supervise the handling and allocation of the assets belonging to a deceased individual’s estate in the absence of a will. Typically, any close family member of the deceased has the option to apply for Letters of Administration.

The following individuals have the right to apply for Letters of Administration in a specific order of priority:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings (brothers and sisters)
  • Nephews and nieces
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles and aunts

According to this order of priority, if the deceased’s children wish to become administrators, the surviving spouse must give up their claim to apply for Letters of Administration. The court will grant the Letters of Administration to the applicant it deems most qualified and appropriate to oversee the management of the deceased individual’s estate.

To minimize the potential for disputes, individuals are strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel when pursuing the Letters of Administration. At Schlessel Law PLLC, our skilled Long Island estate planning attorneys can help you navigate the intricate process of obtaining Letters of Administration. We can assist you in understanding the eligibility criteria, gathering the necessary documents, and maintaining a smooth application process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Who are Eligible to Apply for Letters of Administration in New York?

In New York, there is a rule that determines who is eligible to file for a letter of administration. Generally, the closest distributee (i.e. family member) of the decedent is responsible for filing. This means that the spouse of the Decedent has a higher priority than their children when it comes to filing for administration. However, if the Decedent’s spouse is deceased, the children have equal rights to file. In the event that the distributee entitled to the priority right chooses not to oversee the estate, they have the option to execute a renunciation and waiver. Similarly, if multiple distributees have equal rights (such as the Decedent’s son and daughter), they must sign waivers.  Signing a waiver renouncing their right to administration does not imply that they are renouncing their portion of the inheritance from the deceased person’s estate.

If you need assistance with filing for letters of administration, it’s important to seek the guidance of a skilled probate lawyer in New York. An experienced probate attorney may be able to explain the legal requirements for filing for letters of administration and ensure that all necessary paperwork and documentation are completed correctly.

How to Apply for Letters of Administration?

In order to become the administrator of an estate, you will need to submit an application to the Surrogate’s Court, which will need to include several documents, including the Petition for Letter of Administration. Additional documentation such as the decedent’s death certificate, Affidavit of Sole Heirship, and Affidavit of Due Diligence may also be necessary.

Once all of the necessary documents have been submitted, it typically takes between 3 and 6 weeks to receive a letter of administration in New York. However, if someone contests your right to administer the estate, the process may take several years. In recent times, budget cuts and delays have resulted in slightly longer waiting times.

It’s worth noting that there is a possibility that the court may refuse your application and appoint a public administrator to manage the estate due to circumstances beyond your control.. At Schlessel Law, PLLC, our team of Long Island probate lawyers may be able to help you understand the eligibility criteria, the documents that need to be submitted, and the process involved in applying for letters of administration. Call us today to learn more about how we can help.

What Happens After Letters of Administration are Granted in New York?

The Letters of Administration granted in New York authorize you to act as a representative of an estate and assume the responsibilities involved in administering it. As an appointed administrator by the Surrogate’s Court, you will be able to undertake various tasks, such as obtaining a tax ID number for the estate from the federal government, opening an estate bank account, requesting information from institutions holding the decedent’s assets, transferring assets from the decedent’s name to that of the estate, paying the decedent’s debts, collecting their claims, marshaling the estate assets, and distributing them to beneficiaries after obtaining proper waivers or providing an accounting.

Without New York Letters of Administration, you would not be able to perform these tasks as banks would not provide information or transfer funds, the county recorder would not record property deeds, and buyers would not purchase properties from you. It is advisable to obtain multiple certified copies of the Letters of Administration as each bank and government agency may require an original. Additionally, the court can issue a Certificate of Appointment of Administrator, printed on watermarked blue paper, which resembles official documents like death certificates, birth certificates, or marriage certificates and may be necessary for certain institutions.

Working With A New York Probate Lawyer

Obtaining letters of administration can be a complex process that involves various issues, including proving kinship and searching for unknown heirs. A skilled probate lawyer in New York can guide you through the process and provide legal advice on the required documents and forms to be filed, ensuring compliance with legal requirements. At Schlessel Law, PLLC, our team of experienced Long Island probate lawyers, led by estate planning attorney Seth Schlessel, can assist you with any legal disputes or issues that may arise during the administration process. Contact us today at (516) 574-9630 to schedule a consultation.

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