Getting Limited Letters of Administration for a New York Estate
There is a difference between Letters Testamentary, Letters of Administration, “Limited Letters of Administration”, and Temporary Letters of Administration. This post will explain the process of getting limited letters of administration in NYC pursuant to Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act 702.
What are Limited Letters of Administration?
In New York, Limited Letters of Administration are a type of letters issued by the Surrogate’s Court. The purpose of the letters is to allow individuals to perform very limited and specific functions. When a person dies, with or without a Will, an individual interested in Decedent’s Estate (other than the executor) may petition the Court to obtain limited letters. If it is in the best interest of the Estate, the Court may issue letters limiting the administrator’s powers, such as (i) commencing a lawsuit; (ii) investigating estate assets; (iii) commencing a discovery and turnover proceeding. The Court may place additional limitations or continue enforcing any limitations until it is satisfied that removal of such limitations would not be detrimental to the Estate. For example, although a limited administrator may commence a lawsuit, the fiduciary cannot settle the lawsuit without coming back to compromise the proceeding.
Do I Need Limited Letters?
Limited Letters are useful in many situations. Here are a few examples:
- If you need to avoid posting a bond, you can simply collect estate assets and not be permitted to distribute without Court order;
- If you want to commence a lawsuit on behalf of the Decedent, such as a wrongful death action,
- If you want to investigate an executor’s self-dealing activities that might be unfair or even fraudulent.
- If you want to investigate whether all estate assets have been placed in the hands of the fiduciary.
- If you want to investigate conversion or theft of assets.
Limited Letters could even be issued when another fiduciary, executor or administrator, is already appointed to the Estate. Even if you consented to the appointment of such executor or administrator, you can still petition for Limited Letters.
The Court has also granted Limited Letters in the following situations which are clearly set forth in SCPA 702: signing a release, paying certain judgements, sign necessary documents to finish a transfer left incomplete by decedent, enforcing performance, completing an accounting for a deceased fiduciary, and fiduciary having a conflict of interest to perform his or her duties. These are just a few examples, but are not exclusive.
How are Limited Letters Different from Temporary Letters?
The main differences between Limited Letters and Temporary letters are (1) Temporary Letters are issued while a petition for letters of administration or letters testamentary is pending in Court and (2) Temporary Letters expires every six (6) months. It is aptly named Temporary Letters as it is meant to be temporary and to address an immediate need or concern of the Estate. Temporary Letters are mainly used to handle urgent matters requiring immediate action such commencing a lawsuit when the statute of limitation is near to expire.
How can I Obtain Limited Letters of Administration?
If you believe you need Limited Letters of Administration, you will need to submit a petition to the Court explaining the reasoning and purpose for Limited Letters of Administration. You will also need to notify all interested parties and provide appropriate documents supporting your request. The Court will give priority to individuals with a greater interest in the estate, such as a beneficiary who will receive 50% interest over a beneficiary who will only inherit 25% of the Estate assets. A hearing is likely to follow to further determine the need of the Limited Letters and your qualifications to serve.
What can I do with the Limited Letters?
Individuals who receive Limited Letters are limited by the explicit limitation of the Court. Otherwise, the administrator may perform any tasks regular administrators can do. For example, if you are limited to only investigating the executor’s actions, you will be able to request the Estate’s financial and transactional records. For commencing a wrongful death action, you will be able to sign documents to represent the Estate and negotiate settlements. Other things you can do could be to sign releases, transfer assets, complete performance for a deceased fiduciary or sell a home.
How long will it take to get Limited Letters of Administration?
Generally it takes a few months, but if someone is contesting your right to the letters, it might take even longer. Since the letters are granted based on the Court’s discretion and only if it is in the best interest of the Estate to do so, the Court may take a time to review before making a decision. That is why it is important to make sure to properly argue and petition the Court to prevent any kind of procedural or other types of delay.
If you have any questions regarding obtaining Limited Letters of Administration or whether you need it at all, or just have questions regarding the administration of a loved one’s estate, please feel free to reach out to us so we can help you today.
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