In New York State, if someone dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. In such a situation, their next of kin, as defined in SCPA 1001, would petition to become the administrator of their estate. The process can takes months (and sometimes years) and all of the heirs, also known as distributees, have to be given notice of the proceeding. Sometimes, however, the administrator needs immediate access to the estate in order to process certain time sensitive matters, such a lawsuit on behalf of the estate. Therefore, in addition to applying for full Letters of Administration it is also possible to obtain Limited Letters of Administration (“Limited Letters”). Limited Letters of Administration limit the scope of the administrator’s powers, but they can be issued quickly; even before all of items involved in the full administration are complete.
Limited Letters of Administration are issued by the Surrogates Court to empower an individual to perform very specific and limited tasks. A person with Limited Letters of Administration may be empowered to bring a lawsuit, investigate estate assets or to bring a discovery and turnover proceeding. The Court will provide someone with Limited Letters of Administration with only the power necessary to complete the task at hand. For example, the Limited Administrator may be empowered to start a lawsuit, but not to settle the suit or to turn over the proceeds to the Estate’s beneficiaries without further court order.
There are many circumstances that may call for Limited Letters including but not limited to:
The need to commence a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the Decedent;
The need to avoid posting a bond;
The need to investigate possible wrongful activities on behalf of the appointed fiduciary of the Estate;
The need to investigate the theft of Estate assets;
Limited Letters of Administration must be obtained by filing a Petition with the Surrogates Court in which you will outline your reasons for needing Limited Letters of Administration. Notice of the Petition is required to be sent to all those interested in the Estate and the Court will give priority to those applicants who have the greatest proportional interest in the Estate. Following your Petition, a hearing may be held after which the court will determine whether there is a need for Limited Letters of Administration and whether the applicant is qualified to serve in the role. Limited Letters will only be granted in cases in which the Court feels it is in the best interests of the Estate. It typically takes a few weeks to a few months for the process to be completed.
If you have questions about the Administration of an Estate or about obtaining Limited Letters of Administration, please contact Roman Aminov at 347-766-2685 for a consultation.