What are Letters of Administration? Essential Information

What are Letters of Administration? Essential Information

When someone dies, their estate plan is usually used to determine how to handle the funeral, organize finances, and distribute assets to beneficiaries. Sadly, over 60 percent of people in the US die without an estate plan, leaving these tasks to the court. This means that the deceased’s wishes if they had any, will not be fulfilled. It is why it is becoming increasingly important to prepare an estate plan early.

In the event someone dies without a will, a family member or the court will be forced to execute the deceased’s estate. This process begins when a representative is awarded Letters of Administration. This article looks at these documents, what they do, and why you might need them.

What Are “Letters of Administration”?

Letters of Administration are formal documents granted by a court that gives an individual the permission to access and manage the estate of a deceased person. This individual is known as the Administrator of State and is responsible for settling the estate’s outstanding debts, covering the funeral expenses (from the estate), and distributing assets to the deceased’s relatives.

Why Do You Need Letters of Administration?

As mentioned, letters of administration give an individual permission to manage a deceased person’s estate. It allows them to begin closing it and gives them access to assets and finances that must be managed per the will or state laws (if there is no will). Essentially, no actions can be made on the estate without this authorization. Most financial institutions will not even grant you access to the deceased’s accounts without a Letter of Administration.

In most cases, these letters are needed when the deceased didn’t appoint an Executor to their Will or prepare a will at all. It could also come in handy when the appointed Executor is unable to manage the estate due to health or legal reasons, or the Will is deemed invalid.

How to Obtain Letters of Administration

Letters of administration are usually granted by the court, and this is where the process of obtaining them begins. You must file an application with the county court and present the original copy of the death certificate to the judge. Next, you will need to notify the deceased’s potential heirs about the application and your pending status as the Administrator of State.

Once you alert the family, you must collect the deceased’s financial details, including all debts and assets. You should review their:

  • Bank accounts
  • Mortgages
  • Owned property
  • Investments
  • Loans
  • Credit cards
  • Life insurance policies

Remember, the respective financial institutions will likely deny you access to these details until you obtain a Letter of Administration, so you will need to work with estimates. The county court will then process your application provided you meet the legal requirements, i.e., are a US citizen, above 18, and have no felony criminal record.

Documents You’ll Need for a Letter of Administration

When you file your application with the county court, you will be asked to present some documents. The list of requirements varies from state to state but generally includes the following:

  • A copy of the Will, if one is available
  • The original copy of the death certificate
  • A statement of the estate’s assets and liabilities
  • Letters from the banks where the deceased held an account
  • Copies of the titles for all property owned by the deceased
  • Asset valuation certificates

How Long Does It Take to Obtain Letters of Administration?

If you file your application with all the required documents and are eligible, you could get the Letters of Administration in six to eight weeks. Nonetheless, possible disagreements over the right person to play the role of Administrator could cause delays in the timeline. This is why it is advisable to start the application process as soon as possible after the deceased’s passing.

What Can You Do with Letters of Administration?

Essentially, Letters of Administration form the first stage of the probate process. They serve as legal proof that you are permitted to take on the responsibilities of an Administrator of State. Letters of Administration give you access to the deceased’s assets and permission to manage them per state laws or the Will. They also allow you to distribute assets and property to the deceased’s relatives. Simply put, they allow you to complete the probate process and close the deceased’s estate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you get letters of administration in Florida?

Letters of administration in Florida are issued to the proposed Executor Executor of a state as part of formal administration and to kick off the probate process. The process of obtaining these documents begins with hiring a probate attorney who will file your application with the court. Next, you should familiarize yourself with the deceased’s assets and liabilities, including values and titles. You can then open the estate, a process that involves the following steps:

• Step 1: You petition the probate court to open the deceased’s estate (through your attorney).
• Step 2: You present proof of death in the form of the original death certificate and file an oath of office.
• Step 3: The court designates a resident agent.
• Step 4: The court serves the letters of administration

When these steps are completed, your attorney will usually prepare an unsigned draft of the letters of administration and present them to the Florida probate court. The court will then sign the letters giving the executor permission to act on behalf of the estate.

How long does it take to get a Letter of Administration in Florida?

Generally, it takes 1 to weeks to receive letters of administration from the probate court in Florida. However, the actual timeline will depend on how long it takes you to gather the pre-requisite documents and the court’s workload. You are likely to wait longer if the probate court is handling several letter administration applications at the moment.

Conclusion

When you lose someone close to you, managing their estate might be the last thing on your mind. However, it is important to begin the probate process as soon as possible, especially if you are not knowledgeable about estate planning. Start by gathering the documents your state requires, then send in your application for Letters of Administration. Dealing with this matter early will allow you to meet your responsibilities with minimal fuss.