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Limited Letters of Administration in New York

Limited Letters of Administration 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, with limitations on the powers of the limited administrator. For example, limited letters of administration can have the following limitations:

  • Limited to marshaling the assets of the estates, distribution not allowed
  • Letters of Administration issued for a limited amount
  • Letters of administration not authorizing the sale of real property without a further court order
  • Letters of administration limited by a bond set on the administrator

There can be many reasons why letters of administration would have to be limited by the court:

  • The court is protecting the administrator and their family from making a mistake or fraud by selling the house too low. This is why a judge would ask to approve the sale of real property before it goes through.
  • The court is controlling the amount in the estate to make sure that the administrator does not allocate assets to themselves at the expense of the other distributees
  • The court is setting a bond as insurance against mistakes or malfeasance of the administrator

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

Limited letters of administration in New York authorizes a person to act as a representative of an estate, but with limitations. They allow a person to perform some responsibilities of an estate, depending on the limitations. Here are some of the things a person may be able to do once they are appointed as a limited administrator of an estate by limited 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 in the amount allowed by the limited letters
  • Distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries of the estate, after obtaining proper waivers or providing an accounting, if allowed by the limited letters

Those things would be impossible to do without limited 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 Limited 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 Limited 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 limited letters of administration from that state, you will still need to obtain separate Limited Letters of Administration in New York, by verifying out-of-state Limited Letters of Administration through a New York ancillary administration proceeding.

Limited 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 Limited Letters of Administration will be issued to the Public Administrator of the county where the decedent lived.

How to Get Limited 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 Limited 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 Limited Letters of Administration

It typically takes a few months to get limited 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 full 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 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, a New York estate, guardianship, wills, trust, Medicaid and probate lawyer, and make an appointment to discuss obtaining limited letters of administration.