How Do I Get Letters of Administration?
I get calls all the time from clients who have been told they need “Letters of Administration.” The client is usually trying to access a decedent’s bank account and received those instructions from the bank. Or the client is trying to access a retirement account and got the information from the investment company.
“I just need Letters of Administration. Can you help me get that document?”
If only it were that simple.
Letters of Administration are more than just a legal document; they’re a court order.
Letters of Administration is the name of the court order wherein the court appoints one or more persons to serve as the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. The Letters of Administration serve to tell third parties the personal representative has legal authority to act on behalf of the estate for things like receiving property, paying debts, and distributing property to beneficiaries or heirs.
Letters of Administration usually have language like this:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, the undersigned circuit judge, declare [name of personal representative] duly qualified under the laws of the State of Florida to act as personal representative of the estate of [name of decedent], deceased, with full power to administer the estate according to law; to ask, demand, sue for, recover and receive the property of the decedent; to pay the debts of the decedent as far as the assets of the estate will permit and the law directs; and to make distribution of the estate according to law.
How do you get Letters of Administration?
You must file a Petition for Administration and open a Formal Administration probate proceeding in the circuit court in the county of the decedent’s residence.
The trouble is, a Formal Administration is an expensive, lengthy process. Formal Administration is required when the value of a decedent’s non-exempt probate assets exceeds $75,000 and the person has been deceased for less than two years.
But not all estates need a Formal Administration. Oftentimes, Summary Administration is a more suitable solution for my clients.
A Summary Administration is appropriate when a decedent’s non-exempt probate assets are less than $75,000 or when the decedent has been deceased for at least two years, regardless of the value of the non-exempt probate assets. Summary Administration is faster and less expensive than a Formal Administration.
Sometimes the bank or other third party really does require Letters of Administration. Other times, the bank or third party will accept an Order of Summary Administration.
Every estate is different. It’s best to talk to an attorney to find out what type of probate proceeding is best for your particular situation.
Looking for guidance on the steps to take after a loved one dies in Florida?
If you have probate questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at (850) 741-2999. Lauren A. Merritt, P.A. 111 S. De Villiers Street, Ste. B Pensacola, FL 32502