If you are involved in legal proceedings regarding an estate and/or going through the probate proceedings on behalf of a deceased loved one, you may need Letters of Administration. As these are essential legal documents, it is important to not only know what they are but also how to obtain Florida Letters of Administration.
What Are Letters of Administration?
When a probate judge appoints a personal representative (or executor/executrix) for a probate estate, he or she will issue legal documents to do so. These legal documents are referred to as “Letters of Administration” or “Letters Testamentary.” Once these documents have been issued, the personal representative’s official duties begin. That said, there are several steps in this formal administration process.
How to Obtain Letters of Administration in Florida
As mentioned, if you are the family member or personal representative of a deceased person’s estate in Florida, you may need letters of administration to initiate the probate process. Not having these important legal documents will prevent you from accessing financial institutions, insurance companies, tax returns, etc. These institutions are key to estate administration processes such as distributing assets to heirs, settling debts, etc. Here are the steps to obtain letters of administration in Florida:
- Florida’s probate law requires an original copy of the decedent’s will to be filed with the local circuit court clerk within 10 days of death.
- Please note, letters of administration cannot be obtained without an attorney, so you will need to hire a probate attorney in the time mentioned above to file the will as well for the steps that follow. (anyone can file the will – doesn’t have to be the attorney; however, we do file them for our clients)
- Once an attorney has been hired, the circuit court should be petitioned to “open the estate.” This involves asking the court to recognize the will as valid, formally appointing the personal representative, and filing and notarizing an oath of office. (it’s called an oath of personal representative, not an oath of office)
- You are now ready to obtain letters of administration. Your attorney will ask the probate judge to issue these necessary legal documents. In general, this process can take anywhere between one to four weeks.
I Have the Letters of Administration, Now What?
After going through the steps to obtain the Letters of Administration, the personal representative now has the power to act on behalf of the estate. It is important to consult with your attorney to ensure that you take the steps necessary to protect the assets of the estate for the beneficiaries and heirs. This is known as your “fiduciary duty” to act on their behalf. Depending on the size and/or complexity of the estate, you may be involved in processes that include property, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, insurance policies, etc.
Remember, anyone who is a personal representative over an estate must obtain Letters of Administration to have the authority to act on behalf of that estate. While this is a common process in Florida courts, the law does require the involvement of a probate attorney. If you need an attorney to help with Letters of Administration in Florida, contact our knowledgeable staff today.