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Intestate Succession in New York Explained

There is a good reason we encourage people to have a will, and that reason is intestate succession. With a will, you determine where your assets end up. Otherwise, if you die without a will—intestate—you are stuck utilizing New York’s default intestate succession laws. Article 4 of the New York’s Estates, Powers and Trusts Law lists the order of hierarchy of the preferred beneficiary, child, and/or lineal descendant (known as “issue”).[1] Once a higher priority exists, the allocation stops and the more distant relatives end up with nothing.

Closest Living Relative Who Gets the Estate
A spouse and issue Fifty thousand dollars and one-half of the residue to the spouse, and the balance thereof to the issue by representation.
A spouse and no issue The whole to the spouse
Issue and no spouse The whole to the issue of the parents, by representation
One or both parents, and no spouse and no issue The whole to the surviving parent or parents.
Issue of parents, and no spouse The whole to issue of parents
One or more grandparents or the issue of grandparents. . . .
Great-grandchildren of grandparents . . . .
If there are no qualifying descendants the estate escheats to the state of New York

“Issue” means linear descendants – children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Once a higher priority exists, the allocation stops and the more distant relatives end up with nothing. So for example, in intestate succession, if the person who died had a child, parents and siblings will not receive anything.

“By Representation means the same thing as “per capita by generation” – relatives at the same level of linear descent receive their shares equally, as illustrated below:

intestate succession
New York intestate succession law states that if you die without a will (“intestate”), your spouse takes the first $50,000 cut and then takes half of the remaining assets, with the other half goes to your issue—children and their descendants. While intestate succession may be desirable for some people, it may negatively impact your preferred allocation, especially if you had children from a prior marriage. Don’t forget that if you own your house jointly with your spouse, joint tenancy does not count towards this allocation—as the spouse will automatically have their interest enlarged. Additionally, the courts will impose additional incurred expenses for the estate to go through the intestate estate administration process, which is not present with a will.

The other issue that arises in intestate succession is the division within your children – “by representation.” What does this mean? There are generally three ways a state may decide to divide inheritance: per stirpes, per capita, and by representation (or modern per stirpes). New York’s “by representation” model is similar to the per stirpes model, which differs only on the allocation of the first living relative before dropping the rest down. Here is an example to explain how this would work as per New York’s intestate succession laws:

Let us say that Bob passed away with $450,000 of assets after expenses. Bob was married to Wanda, his second wife with whom he shared a young daughter, Debbie. Bob also had three children from his prior marriage. Darryl, a notorious drug user; Manny, a multi-millionaire estranged from the family. He also had Beth, who tragically passed away, leaving four destitute children behind. Bob loved them as his own. In this example: First, Wanda takes $250,000 ($50,000 plus a half). The remaining $200,000 are divided: Debbie gets $50,000, Darryl gets $50,000, Manny gets $50,000, and Beth’s $50,000 flows to her children—her four children each get $12,500.

The above drastic example was meant to show the consequences of intestate succession law. Default laws do not care about personal circumstances. The law will treat the destitute, the millionaire, and the drug addict in the same way in intestate succession. If they are an “issue,” they will split the estate. While it is unlikely that anyone has it as bad as Bob, surely you can see where making your own rules makes more sense than relying on New York intestate succession law to determine how your estate gets distributed.

Let’s see what Bob could have done with a will. First, Bob leaves Wanda 1/3 of his estate, $150,000. This matches the minimum a surviving spouse is entitled to through the elective share rules.[2] He can now leave estranged Manny out entirely, he does not need the money. He can also leave $50,000 to Debbie—to prepay a year of college. Darryl will receive $50,000 on the express condition that he is drug free for a year—a great motivator! Lastly, Bob’s four destitute grandchildren from Beth also get $50,000 each.

With so many possibilities and intricate needs, there is no need to have New York’s default intestate succession law apply. Consider avoiding an intestate estate, by creating a last will and testament. If you need an attorney for your intestate succession case, call Albert Goodwin, Esq., a New York estate, guardianship, wills, trust, Medicaid and probate lawyer with over a decade of experience.

[1] N.Y. Est. Powers & Trusts Law § 4-1.1

[2] Id. § 5-1.1.

Does an Executor Get Paid in NY

Yes, the executor does get paid in NY. The payment to the executor is called a commission and is calculated based on the following percentages of the value of the estate:

  • 5% of the first $100,000
  • 4% of the next $200,000
  • 3% the next $700,000
  • 2.5% of the next $4 Million
  • 2% of the rest of the value of the estate 

This calculation instruction is written out in SCPA 2307.

Here is our interactive calculator for how much is an executor paid in NY, for help with the math involved:

Executors of Estates in NY are not expected to carry out their responsibilities free of charge. They are usually entitled to compensation. This compensation is called “commissions.” The executor does get paid in NY, and the amount is set by law, in SCPA 2307.

To calculate how much an executor gets paid in NY, seek the advice of an estate attorney. The calculation can be trickier than people think.

Keep in mind that the statute requires that payment of commissions will be split between receiving and paying out. The amount of the executor fees will be the same as above, but listing it will look different, as the “receiving” fee and “paying out” fee will be specified, each being half of the total executor commission calculated.

An Executor is Paid in NY Based on a Percentage of the Estate

Does an Executor Get Paid in NY

Actually using the percentages can be a bit confusing. Even though the NY executor commission calculator above does the math for you, you should still be able to double-check and do the math yourself. Here is an additional explanation, which will help you understand how the calculation works:

  • 5% of the first $100,000
  • 4% of the next $200,000 (so $5,000 plus 4% of estate value up to $300,000)
  • 3% the next $700,000 (so $5,000 plus $8,000 plus 3% of estate value up to $1 million)
  • 2.5% of the next $4 Million (so $5,000 plus $8,000 plus $21,000 plus 2.5% of estate value up to $5 million)
  • 2% of the rest (this is an estate that is worth more than $5 Million, so $5,000 plus $8,000 plus $21,000 plus $100,000 plus 2% of estate value over $5 Million)

The percentage the executor is getting paid is based on the value of the estate’s assets plus income derived from those assets. For example, interest received from property of the estate is included in when you calculate how much the executor gets paid, but the property itself may not be included because the executor is not involved in the property’s sale. This is sometimes counterintuitive, because the executor usually is involved in retitling the property from the decedent to the beneficiaries. As you can see, it is now always easy to determine which assets are included in the payment, so an executor is well advised to consult with a NY estate attorney before taking their fees. It is likely that a preliminary account of the estate will be required when filing for a request for an advance payment of commission.

The executor may be entitled to additional reasonable compensation in connection with property management (5% of gross rentals), litigation or tax matters or management of the decedent’s business matters.

What Assets Are Not Included In Executor Payment

Assets passing outside of the estate or left to specifically named beneficiaries in a will are not included when a New York executor gets paid.

Assets that pass outside of the estate are not includable in calculating how much is an executor paid in NY, also called “non-probate assets,” are not a part of the estate and the executor therefore is not involved in their distribution and cannot charge a commission for them. They include:

  • accounts with named beneficiaries
  • accounts held jointly with the person who died
  • real estate owned jointly with the person who died
  • life insurance policies payable to individual beneficiaries
  • real estate given to specific beneficiaries is also not a part of the estate

Specific legacy or devise is not includable in executor payment – the value of real property or personal property left to a specific person cannot be used as a basis of calculating executor compensation. If there is a reason that this property has to be handled by the executor, for example sold and the proceeds distributed, then the property may be includable in calculating executor payment.

As a rule of thumb, property that the executor is not receiving and paying out is not included in calculating their payment.

How much is Each Executor Paid in NY if there is More Than One Executor

  • Estates Under $100,000 – For estates under $100,000, there is a “one commission rule” – one commission is split between all of the executors.
  • Estates from $100,000 to $300,000 – For estates valued between $100,000 and $300,000, there is a “up to two commissions rule” – two commissions are split between all the executors.
  • Estates at $300,000 and over – For estates valued at over $300,000, there is an “up to three commissions rule” – up to three fiduciaries can get separate fees, but if there are more than three fiduciaries, they divide three commissions.

Is Executor Pay in NY Subject to Income Tax

Yes, typical NY executor fees are counted as income and are subject to income tax. On the other hand, the IRS and New York Department of Revenue give estate executors an option to not take their payment and not pay income tax. This may make sense for an executor who is the only beneficiary of an estate, or even for someone who is not the only beneficiary, in light of the income-tax savings. This is something that should be discussed with an estate attorney and a tax advisor.

Can an Executor Get an Advance Payment of Fees

There is no automatic right to advance payment of commission – executors are usually paid at the conclusion of the estate, with our strong insistence that executors receive a signed and notarized waiver from the beneficiaries. However, New York SCPA 2310 and 2311 do authorize the executor to apply to the court for the advance payment of commissions, and will be able to take advance commissions if the judge issues an order allowing them to do so.

What is “Receiving and Paying Out”?

SCPA 2307 states that when NY executor commission is calculated, the amount of the commission should be split in half and the first half is presented as fee for “receiving” the estate and the second half is presented as “paying out” the estate. Although this does not impact the amount of the fee that the executor receives, it does impact how the numbers are presented in the accounting document submitted to the court or to the interested parties. An estate attorney familiar with submitting estate accounting documents would know how those numbers should be presented correctly.

What if How Much an Executor Gets Paid is Specified in the Will?

Some wills direct that the executor is to serve without compensation, but those wills are far and few in between. Even fewer wills specify how much is an executor paid in NY. Typical executor commission is in accordance with SCPA 2307, but a will can change that default. So it’s always a good idea to double-check your will, because if the will does set the amount of compensation, the direction of the will overwrites the default executor commission rate set forth in SCPA 2307.

Do I Need Written Consent of the Beneficiaries Before I Take My Executor Pay

 Does an Executor Get Paid in NY - Waiver

Although it is theoretically possible to take the executor pay at the end of the case without written confirmation from the beneficiaries, it is almost unthinkable to do so in real-world practice because of the concern that the beneficiaries may challenge the amount at a later date. Obtaining a written waiver and consent from beneficiaries of a NY estate is a must before collecting executor pay in NY. It is standard practice to obtain beneficiaries’ consent not only on executor commissions but also on all aspects of an estate before the estate is settled.

Serving as an executor of a NY estate may require a great deal of time and expertise depending on the size of the estate and the type of assets. Under NY SCPA 2307, an executor of an estate is entitled to receive payment for their time and efforts in connection with the management of the estate assets and the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries.

If you need to calculate how much you would get paid as an executor in NY as per SCPA 2307, and other help in an estate, you can get in touch with New York estate attorney Albert Goodwin at info@nyestateslawyer.com or by calling (212) 233-1233.

Certified Letter of Administration

A certified letter of administration is an informal name sometimes given to a document issued by the Surrogate’s Court which 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 a certified letter of administration obtained by our law firm:

letters of administration New York

A certified letter of administration 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 a certified letter 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 a certified letter 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, 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:

New York Certificate of Appointment of Administrator

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 A certified letter of administration, 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.

How to Get A certified letter of administration

In order to get a certified letter of administration, 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.

How Long Does it Take to Get Letters of Administration

It typically takes a few months to get a certified letter of administration. 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.”

Call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233, New York estate, guardianship, wills, trust, Medicaid and probate lawyer, and make an appointment to discuss obtaining Letters of Administration.

Can an Executor Refuse to Act?

Can an executor refuse to act

Being an executor is a responsibility that not everyone can take on. If the executor nominated by the will wish to refuse to act, they can do so. If they do nothing, they will not be appointed by the court. Being nominated by the will is not enough to act as the executor, to have that power one has to be appointed by the court.

If there is a successor executor nominated by the will, that successor executor can step in and petition the court to be nominated to act as the executor and perform the duties. It is sufficient for the original executor to not do anything and just say “I refuse.” But it would be faster and easier for the beneficiaries and the successor executor if the original executor signs a disclaimer refusing his right to act as the executor.

If there is no successor executor or the successor executor is not available, then the estate can be administered by one of the beneficiaries, who can apply to be estate Administrator C.T.A. This means administrator “with the will attached” (Cum Testamento Annexo in Latin). Administrator C.T.A. steps in when there is no successor executor or they are also refusing or passed away or not fit mentally. If no beneficiary steps in the administer the estate, then the Public Administrator of the county where the estate is taking place can step in and become the administrator of the estate. This may be an extra expense to the estate.

An executor nominated by the will can refuse to act, but they should think twice before they do so, due to the fact that the alternative could be an administrator who is not as competent or the public administrator, which is an added expense to the estate.

We would like to think that the person who died nominated that particular executor for a reason, but we understand that things come up in life where a nominated executor wants to refuse to act.

If you are the executor who would like to refuse to act or you are the successor executor or a beneficiary who would like to become the Administrator C.T.A., call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233 or (718) 509-9774.

Does The Executor of a Will Get Paid in NY

If you want to know if an executor of a will gets paid in NY. The answer is yes. Executors of Estates in NY are not expected to carry out their responsibilities free of charge. They are usually entitled to compensation. This compensation is called “commissions.” The amount an executor is paid in NY is set by law, in SCPA 2307. Here are the commission percentages:

•    5% of the first $100,000
•    4% of the next $200,000
•    3% the next $700,000
•    2.5% of the next $4 Million
•    2% of the rest of the value of the estate 

Here is our interactive calculator for how much is an executor paid in NY, for help with the math involved:

To figure out how much an executor gets paid in NY, seek the advice of an estate attorney. The answer can be trickier than people think.

Keep in mind that the statute requires that commission be split between receiving and paying out. The amount the executor gets paid will be the same as above, but listing it will look different, as the “receiving” fee and “paying out” payments will be specified, each being half of the total executor payment calculated.

How Much an Executor is Paid in NY is Determined as a Percentage of the Estate

How Much is an Executor Paid in NY - Percentage

Using the percentages is not always straight-forward. Even though the NY executor payment calculator above does the math for you, you should still be able to double-check and do the math yourself.  Here is an additional explanation, which will help you understand how executors get paid in New York:

•    5% of the first $100,000
•    4% of the next $200,000 (so $5,000 plus 4% of estate value up to $300,000)
•    3% the next $700,000 (so $5,000 plus $8,000 plus 3% of estate value up to $1 million)
•    2.5% of the next $4 Million (so $5,000 plus $8,000 plus $21,000 plus 2.5% of estate value up to $5 million)
•    2% of the rest (this is an estate that is worth more than $5 Million, so $5,000 plus $8,000 plus $21,000 plus $100,000 plus 2% of estate value over $5 Million)

The payment is based on the value of the estate’s assets plus income derived from those assets. For example, interest received from property of the estate is included in when you figure out how much the executor gets paid, but the property itself may not be included because the executor is not involved in the property’s sale. This is sometimes counterintuitive, because the executor usually is involved in retitling the property from the decedent to the beneficiaries. As you can see, it is now always easy to determine which assets are included in the calculation, so an executor is well advised to consult with a NY estate attorney before taking their payment. It is likely that a preliminary account of the estate will be required when filing for a request for an advance payment of the executor.

The executor may be entitled to additional reasonable compensation in connection with property management (5% of gross rentals), litigation or tax matters or management of the decedent’s business matters.

What Assets Are Not Included When You Figure Out How Much an Executor is Paid in NY

Assets passing outside of the estate or left to specifically named beneficiaries in a will are not included in a NY executor’s payment.

Assets that pass outside of the estate are not includable in figuring out if an executor is getting paid and how much the payment would be. Also called “non-probate assets,” are not a part of the estate and the executor therefore is not involved in their distribution and cannot collect payment for them. They include:

  • accounts with named beneficiaries
  • accounts held jointly with the person who died
  • real estate owned jointly with the person who died
  • life insurance policies payable to individual beneficiaries
  • real estate given to specific beneficiaries is also not a part of the estate

Specific legacy or devise is not includable in figuring out how much an executor gets paid – the value of real property or personal property left to a specific person cannot be used as a basis of the executor’s payment. If there is a reason that this property has to be handled by the executor, for example sold and the proceeds distributed, then the property may be includable in figuring out how much an executor is getting paid.

As a rule of thumb, property that the executor is not receiving and paying out is not included in figuring out how much an executor is getting paid.

How much Each Executor is Paid in NY if there is More Than One Executor

  • Estates Under $100,000 – For estates under $100,000, there is a “one commission rule” – one commission is split between all of the executors.
  • Estates from $100,000 to $300,000 – For estates valued between $100,000 and $300,000, there is a “up to two commissions rule” – two commissions are split between all the executors.
  • Estates at $300,000 and over – For estates valued at over $300,000, there is an “up to three commissions rule” – up to three fiduciaries can get separate fees, but if there are more than three fiduciaries, they divide three commissions.

Is Executor Pay in NY Subject to Income Tax

Yes, typical NY executor payments are counted as income and are subject to income tax. On the other hand, the IRS and New York Department of Revenue give estate executors an option to not take the payment and not pay income tax. This may make sense for an executor who is the only beneficiary of an estate, or even for someone who is not the only beneficiary, in light of the income-tax savings. This is something that should be discussed with an estate attorney and a tax advisor.

Can an Executor Get an Advance Payment

There is no automatic right to advance payment. Executors are usually paid at the conclusion of the estate, with our strong insistence that executors receive a waiver from the beneficiaries. However, New York SCPA 2310 and 2311 do authorize the executor to apply to the court for the advance payment, and will be able to take advance payment if the judge issues an order allowing them to do so.

What is “Receiving and Paying Out”?

SCPA 2307 states that when NY executor payment is calculated, the amount of the payment should be split in half and the first half is presented as fee for “receiving” the estate and the second half is presented as “paying out” the estate. Although this does not impact the amount of the payment that the executor receives, it does impact how the numbers are presented in the accounting document submitted to the court or to the interested parties. An estate attorney familiar with submitting estate accounting documents would know how those numbers should be presented correctly.

What if How Much an Executor is Paid is Specified in the Will?

Some wills direct that the executor is to serve without compensation, but those wills are far and few in between. Even fewer wills specify how much is an executor paid in NY.  Typical executor commission is in accordance with SCPA 2307, but a will can change that default. So it’s always a good idea to double-check your will, because if the will does set the amount of compensation, the direction of the will overwrites the default executor payment rate set forth in SCPA 2307.

Do I Need Written Consent of the Beneficiaries Before I Take My Executor Pay

NYS Executor Fee Calculation - Waiver

Although it is theoretically possible to take the executor pay at the end of the case without written confirmation from the beneficiaries, it is almost unthinkable to do so in real-world practice because of the concern that the beneficiaries may challenge the amount at a later date. Obtaining a written waiver and consent from beneficiaries of a NY estate is a must before collecting executor pay in NY. It is standard practice to obtain beneficiaries’ consent not only on executor commissions but also on all aspects of an estate before the estate is settled.

Serving as an executor of a NY estate may require a great deal of time and expertise depending on the size of the estate and the type of assets.  Under NY SCPA 2307, an executor of an estate is entitled to receive compensation for their time and efforts in connection with the management of the estate assets and the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries.

If you need to calculate executor payment in NY as per SCPA 2307, and other help in an estate, you can get in touch with New York estate attorney Albert Goodwin at info@nyestateslawyer.com or by calling (212) 233-1233.

How Much Does a Letter of Testamentary Cost?

How much does a letter of testamentary cost?

There are two components of letter of testamentary cost: the court fee and the attorney’s fees. The court fee ranges from $45 to $1,250, depending on the gross value of the estate. The attorney’s fees start at about $2,500 and can go up depending on the complexity of the case. The typical arrangement in our firm is to offer a flat fee of $2,500 and to charge $400 per hour for any work beyond seven hours.

The Estate Complications That Raise the Cost of a Letter of Testamentary

For an estate with routine complications, it can cost double the amount to get a letter of testamentary. You are looking at upwards of $5,000 because of the additional attorney’s fees. Here are the routine complications you would typically encounter:

  • Having to notify many parties.  As part of the process of obtaining letters testamentary, we have to notify every party who is benefitting from the will and every relative who is not mentioned in the will. This can be easy if everyone accepts notice and signs off on a waiver. It can get a little harder if someone does not sign the waiver for whatever reason and we have to officially notify them by having a service personally deliver the notice to them. The good news is, if the person lives out of state, we can notify them by certified mail. So having many parties to notify would not necessarily increase how much letters testamentary would cost.
  • Difficulties obtaining a bond. A bond is a type of insurance that protects against bad acts of the executor. Typically, the courts don’t require a bond for executors. But if they require it in your case, then it may create an extra step that will cost you extra money, both in bond insurance payments and in extra attorney’s fees for dealing with bond documentation. As an additional bond complication, you can only get this insurance if you have good credit. If you don’t pass the credit check, then you would have to go through the extra step of having your attorney be an administrator and essentially vouch for the safety of the estate. This extra application will increase the procedure involved and consequently will increase how much the letter of testamentary will cost in attorneys’ fees.
  • Being a sole heir. When someone is a sole heir, the court can require them to submit an affidavit of heirship and in some cases a family tree affidavit from a disinterested party, which can increase how much a letter of testamentary costs in attorney’s fees. If you do not have a disinterested party who has all the information about your family tree, then you will be required to produce an affidavit from a geneologist. A geneologist can charge upwards of $200 per hour, which, coupled with extra attorney’s fees required to complete the affidavit, would raise how much the letter of testamentary costs.
  • A need for the attorney to act as the administrator. If the attorney needs to act as the administrator, they would charge you extra for that service, increasing the cost of the letter of testamentary. An attorney can charge an administrator’s commission, which is determined on a percentage basis.
  • Errors on the death certificate. If a death certificate contains an error, then we would have to put together a sworn document explaining the error to the court. This document is called an affidavit, and having to put one together would increase how much attorneys’ fees for letters testamentary will cost.

Serious Complications with an Even Higher Cost

For an estate with serious complications, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to get a letter of testamentary. Like we said before, even if an estate attorney initially offers a flat fee, the flat fee arrangement goes out the window once complications are involved. Here are the major complications that would significantly impact how much a letter of testamentary would cost:

  • A will contest. The most expensive and stressful litigation in an estate case is a will contest, where a relative is trying to overturn the will. A will contest places the probate proceeding on a litigation track, and can take a lot of an estate attorney’s time and resources, thereby increasing how much the letter testamentary costs. A will contest will involve examination under oath of the attorney who drafted the will, the witnesses to the will, the person presenting the will for probate and anyone else with knowledge of the facts. It may involve obtaining and reviewing the decedent’s medical records in order to assess his capacity to make a will. A will contest can quickly turn into a long and involved lawsuit that can cost tens of thousands of dollars and cost years of delay. A will contest can result in having to pay out a settlement, which would also increase the cost of the letter of testamentary.
  • A search for parties with unknown address. As we’ve mentioned before, the court is very particular about officially notifying every party entitled to notice, no mater the difficulty. It typically takes about six months to complete all the required research and publication required to notify parties whose address is unknown. This extra requirement of the attorney’s time increases the cost of the letter of testamentary. You may also have an additional cost of paying a geneologist and a private investigator, who can charge upwards of $200 per hour.
  • Kinship claims. Someone can claim to be a child of the decedent or a child of some other relative that is related to the decedent. If a person comes out and claims to be a relative of the person who died, dealing with that claim can add to tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and settlement costs.
  • A search for unknown parties.  The courts are very particular about notifying every party who is in any possible way affected by the will, even if they are not even mentioned in the will. Courts often require the executor to show that an effort was made to search for parties even if they are not likely to be found, such as when they are the decedent’s far removed relatives from overseas who may not have even existed. This can take a year or more to resolve. Like we said before, having to locate parties may involve the additional cost of paying a geneologist and a private investigator, increasing the cost of a letter of testamentary.

The extra time and resource requirements of the estates with major complications increase the costs of the letter of testamentary. When you enter into a retainer agreement with the estate attorney representing you in obtaining letters of testamentary, the costs will be a part of the retainer agreement, and it will specify that the costs will increase in the event of complications.

Additional Legal Expenses After You Receive the Letter of Testamentary

Just because you received letters of testamentary, your legal expenses may not stop there. Here are some expenses that would increase the total cost of a letter of testamentary.

  • Having to Submit an Accounting. If the beneficiaries of the estate don’t trust your handling of the estate, you would have to submit a judicial accounting, which is a summary of the assets and expenses of the estate.
  • Dealing with Creditors. Having to deal with creditors is an additional cost of letters testamentary. The most notorious creditor is Medicaid, that can ask for tens or sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes even in excess of the value of the estate. Business partners and spouses are other examples of creditors. Negotiating and settling with Medicaid or other creditors is an additional cost.
  • Closing out the estate. Most estates are simple to close with simple forms, but where you have beneficiaries who don’t trust the executor, you would need to close out the estate though a judicial process, and that takes more time and costs more in attorney’s fees.

The document is actually called Letters of Testamentary, 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.

This article is meant to give you a bird’s eye view of the factors involved. If you would like to get an estimate of how much does a letter of testamentary cost in your particular case, you can give me a call and I will be happy to provide you with an estimate. You can reach me at (212) 233-1233.

How Long are Letters of Administration Good For in New York?

When people ask us “how long are my letters of administration good for,” we want to see a copy of the letters of administration. If there is no expiration date on it, then they are good for the rest of your life. Essentially, most letters of administration can last forever. Look at an example of letters of administration – there is no statement on it that it is only good for a certain time period.

With many courts in New York, one for each county, rules may vary from court to court. Circumstances can also vary from case to case. So you sometimes do have letters that are only good for a certain time period, but that’s an exception rather than the rule.

Most letters of administration are good for the rest of your life, but when a bank is conducting a transaction, their policy is usually to see a recent Certificate of Appointment of Administrator from the court confirming that your letters of administration are still in effect. They do this to make sure that nothing changed in your case, that your letters are not revoked and that you are still in good standing with the court regarding compliance, bonding, accounting, reports or any other issues. Banks call this a “fresh Certificate.” You can see an example of a Certificate:

To get a new certificate, you just have to go to the court that issued the letters of administration, see a clerk in the cashier’s department, pay six dollars and they will issue a new certificate. The new certificate will be good for the next six months.

Do Letters of Administration Expire in New York

When people ask us “do letters of administration expire in New York,” we want to see a copy of the letters of administration. If there is no expiration date on it, then they do not expire. Essentially, most letters of administration can last forever. Look at an example of letters of administration – there is no expiration date on it.

With many courts in New York, one for each county, rules may vary from court to court. Circumstances can also vary from case to case. So you sometimes do have letters that expire, but that’s an exception rather than the rule.

Most letters of administration don’t expire, but when a bank is conducting a transaction, their policy is usually to see a recent Certificate of Appointment of Administrator from the court confirming that your letters of administration are still in effect. They do this to make sure that nothing changed in your case, that your letters are not revoked and that you are still in good standing with the court regarding compliance, bonding, accounting, reports or any other issues. Banks call this a “fresh Certificate.” You can see an example of a Certificate:

To get a new certificate, you just have to go to the court that issued the letters of administration, see a clerk in the cashier’s department, pay six dollars and they will issue a new certificate.

We’ve recently had a situation in the Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court, where the letters of administration did not expire on its face but the clerk told us that we have to apply for an extension because it’s been more than six months. So for some applications, it may be necessary to extend letters of administration even though they did not have an expiration date.

Because each situation is different, ask your New York estate lawyer what is the best way to proceed in your case.

Letters of Administration NY

Letters of administration NY is a name for a document issued by the Surrogate’s Court which permits a person to act on behalf of an estate of a person who died without leaving 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.

Here is a redacted picture of  letters of administration NY obtained by our law firm:

letters of administration New York

Letters of administration NY authorize 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 letters of administration NY 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 letters of administration NY. 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:

NY Certificate of Appointment of Administrator

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 NY, by verifying out-of-state Letters of Administration through a NY 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.

How to Get Letters of Administration

In order to get letters of administration NY, 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.

How Long Does it Take to Get Letters of Administration

It typically takes a few months to get letters of administration NY. 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 a NY 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.”

Call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233, NY estate, guardianship, wills, trust, Medicaid and probate lawyer, and make an appointment to discuss obtaining Letters of Administration.

Letters of Administration in New York

Letters of administration in New York is an official name for a document issued by the Surrogate’s Court which permits a person to act on behalf of an estate of a person who died without leaving 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.

Here is a redacted picture of  letters of administration in New York obtained by our law firm:

letters of administration New York

Letters of administration in New York 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 letters of administration in New York 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 letters of administration in New York. 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:

New York Certificate of Appointment of Administrator

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, 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.

How to Get Letters of Administration in New York

In order to get letters of administration in New York, 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.

How Long Does it Take to Get Letters of Administration

It typically takes a few months to get letters of administration in New York. 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.”

Call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233, New York estate, guardianship, wills, trust, Medicaid and probate lawyer, and make an appointment to discuss obtaining Letters of Administration.