When someone dies and does not leave a will, a letter of administration (or letters testamentary) is used to legally permit a person with the power to become administrator of the deceased’s estate. When this happens, the chosen individual (who is usually a close family member or friend), takes on the responsibility of sorting out all the money, property and assets left behind by the decedent. Still, many probate laws vary between states, and the means for receiving a letter of administration can be a lot to handle, especially in a time of loss. Here’s a closer look at the process, requirements, and legal purpose of letters of administration to help with clarification.
Grant of Letters of Administration
A grant of letters of administration is an official court document that proves an individual has the authority and is responsible enough to handle a decedent’s estate. It grants the individual the right to become administrator of the estate, which gives them various permissions such as:
- Handling assets left behind by the decedent
- Notifying financial institutions about the death
- Closing bank accounts
- Paying outstanding debts and taxes
- Selling or distributing property
- Distributing assets to various beneficiaries
A grant of letters of administration differs from a probate letter, or grant of probate, in that in the latter instance, the deceased individual has provided a will. However, a letter of testamentary may still be required in some cases, such as if the will is invalid — if no executors are named in the will — or if the executor named in the will is unable to carry out their responsibilities.
An administrator of an estate also slightly differs from an executor. Both roles are meant to distribute assets and property, but in the case of administrators, intestacy laws decide what is given to beneficiaries.
Who Can Be an Administrator of an Estate?
When a deceased individual does not provide a will, the role of administrator will usually go to the closest family member, whether it’s a next-of-kin, spouse, or other significant relative. The standard procedure generally goes from spouse (if the decedent was married or in a civil partnership) → children → parents → siblings → other relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents).
Once an individual has been to handle the estate, they have every right to hire a professional to help them in various aspects of the probate and administrative processes. Estate administration services can help in situations such as:
- Applying for grant of letters of administration
- Keeping track of and organizing application
- Providing letter of administration samples
- Settling the estate
How to Get Letters of Administration
In order to receive a grant of letters of administration, an individual must retain an attorney in order to submit an application to the probate registry. Individuals may not file an application on their own.
For those considering a service, some things to take into consideration when speaking to your probate solicitor include:
- Thoroughly discuss the details and value of the decedent’s estate, as there are often unforeseen assets, properties, or unpaid taxes that must be settled appropriately.
- The estate administration service will prepare the tax forms and send them to you to be signed.
- When the application is approved, the letter of administration will be sent electronically.
- It usually takes around 30 days to be approved for letters testamentary when the estate is fairly simple. For more complex estates, this process can take anywhere from three to twelve months to complete.
Walser & Herman Law
If you’re in need of an estate administration service to help you receive a grant of letters of administration, contact Walser & Herman Law to get started. Our Florida probate law firm has been providing trust and estate legal services to the Palm Beach County community for more than 30 years. Explore our detailed and professional estate planning services today to learn more.