New York Letters of Administration is a document issued by the Surrogate’s Court. It enables you to act on behalf of the estate of a person who died without a will. The document is not a letter – it’s a court order. The confusion stems from the fact that Order used to be called Letters hundreds of years ago.
A lawyer cannot write letters of administration for you, but a lawyer can represent you in applying for letters of administration to the court.
Through the process called estate administration, the court will verify that you are the closest living relative. The court will also make sure that you are the relative with the priority to be appointed the estate administrator.
Here is a redacted image of Letters of Administration NY obtained by our law firm:
Letters of Administration NY authorize you to act as a representative of an estate. It allows you to perform the responsibilities of an estate.
Here are some of the things you will do once you are appointed as an administrator of an estate by Letters of Administration issued by the Surrogate’s Court:
- Obtain a tax id number for an estate from the federal government
- Open an estate bank account
- Request information from banks and other institutions that control the decedent’s assets. The banks will comply if you show them the Letters of Administration and the death certificate
- Transfer assets from the decedent’s name to the name of the estate
- Pay debts of the decedent
- Collect claims of the decedent
- Marshal assets of the estate
- Distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries of the estate, after obtaining proper waivers or providing an accounting
Those things would be impossible to do without New York Letters of Administration. The banks will not give you information and will not transfer the assets, the county recorder will not record property deeds, and a buyer will not buy a property from you.
You often need more than one, since each bank and government agency would require an original. Also, since some institutions require a more official-looking document, the court can issue a Certificate of Appointment of Administrator. It’s printed on watermarked blue paper and looks similar to a death certificate, birth certificate, or marriage certificate.
Here is a redacted image of a Certificate of Appointment of Administrator obtained by our law firm:
Even if the decedent died in a different state and you have Letters of Administration from that state, you will still need to obtain separate Letters of Administration in New York. The court will grant you Ancillary Letters of Administration by verifying out-of-state Letters of Administration through a New York ancillary administration proceeding.
The court issues Letters of administration when you apply the court appoints you as the administrator of an estate of someone who died. You can only be an administrator if you are related to the person who died. The spouse of the decedent gets a preference, followed by children, grandchildren, other descendants, parents, siblings, etc.
If someone died and no one stepped forward to be the administrator of their estate, then the Public Administrator of the relevant county is granted Letters of Administration by the court.
How to Get Letters of Administration
To get letters of administration, you will need your New York estate attorney to apply through the Surrogate’s Court. Your attorney will need to submit the appropriate documents, which may include
- Petition for Administration of Estate
- the original death certificate
- copy of the funeral bill
- affidavit of heirship
- affidavit of family tree
- affidavit of due diligence
- other documents
There Surrogate’s Court will hold a hearing where the judge will consider your candidacy for the Letters of Administration.
How Long Does it Take to Get Letters of Administration
It typically takes a few months to get letters of administration. If someone is contesting your right to become the estate administrator, then getting letters of administration can take years. The court can deny your application for Letters of administration altogether, with either the challenger or the public administrator getting the letters instead. Although getting the letters is only one of the steps of a New York administration proceeding, it is the most crucial step.
If the person who died left a will, then the document will be similar and with similar powers, but it will be called “Letters Testamentary,” and the Certificate will be called “Certificate of the Appointment of Executor.”
If you would like legal representation in obtaining Letters of Administration, you can call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233, New York estate, guardianship, wills, trust, Medicaid and probate lawyer.
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