An administrator letter is an informal name sometimes given to a document issued by the Surrogate’s Court that permits a person to act on behalf of an estate of a person who died without leaving a will. The document is actually called Letters of Administration, and it’s not a letter – it’s a court order. The confusion stems from the fact that Order used to be called Letter hundreds of years ago.
Here is a redacted picture of an administrator letter obtained by our law firm:
An administrator letter authorizes a person to act as a representative of an estate. They allow a person to perform the responsibilities of an estate. Here are some of the things a person can do once they are appointed as an administrator of an estate by administrator letter issued by the Surrogate’s Court:
Those things would be impossible to do without an administrator letter. 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, some institutions require a more official-looking document. This is why the court can also issue a Certificate of Appointment of Administrator, which is printed on a watermarked blue paper and looks similar to a death certificate, birth certificate or marriage certificate.
Here is a redacted picture 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 a separate Administrator letter, by verifying out-of-state Letters of Administration through a New York ancillary administration proceeding.
Letters of administration are issued when a person died without a will, to a person who applies and is appointed by the court as the administrator of a deceased person’s estate. A person can only be an administrator if they 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 a person died and no one stepped forward to be the administrator of their estate, then Letters of Administration will be issued to the Public Administrator of the county where the decedent lived.
In order to get an administrator letter, you will need your estate attorney to apply for them 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, notices and citations, copy of the funeral bill, affidavit of heirship, affidavit of family tree, affidavit of due diligence, etc.. There will be a hearing in the Surrogate’s Court whereby your candidacy for the Letters of Administration will be considered by the judge.
It typically takes a few months to get an administrator letter. If the administration proceeding is contested, i.e. if someone is contesting your right to become the estate administrator, then getting letters of administration can take years, or they can be potentially denied altogether, with either the challenger or the public administrator getting the letters instead. Although getting the letters is only one of the steps of New York administration proceeding, it is the most important 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 are looking for an administration letter, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York City, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 212-233-1233 or send us an email at [email protected].