How to Get a Letter of Administration in Florida

How to get a letter of administration in Florida

If you’ve been appointed the personal representative of a family member or decedent’s estate, then you’ve been tasked with the responsibility of settling the probate estate’s affairs. Before you have the legal authority to do so, however, you must obtain a Florida Letter of Administration. Below, learn the steps involved and how long the process may take.

What is a Letter of Administration in a Probate Case?

Under Florida probate rules, the personal representative or interested person of the decedent’s estate must obtain Letters of Administration before initiating the probate process. The decedent’s will may appoint a personal representative (or executor) of the estate, or another interested party (e.g., a family member) may petition for Letters of Administration from the court to become the personal representative.

In general, obtaining Letters of Administration requires an individual to obtain a court order from the probate court formally declaring them as the estate’s representative and fiduciary. As a fiduciary, the personal representative is required to act on behalf of the estate.

There are different types of probate under the Florida statutes. The Letters of Administration are only necessary, accordingly, for a formal administration of probate proceedings. If, on the other hand, the estate is distributed through summary administration or disposition of personal property without administration occurs, the Letters are not needed.

You will need the Letters of Administration in order for third parties to recognize your authority as the estate’s fiduciary. With the letters, the state of Florida will allow you to:

  • Cancel utilities;
  • Obtain copies of creditor statements;
  • File tax returns;
  • Communicate with financial institutions like banks and other lenders;
  • Collect and distribute life insurance policies;
  • Transfer titles to real property;
  • Open a bank account for the estate;
  • Sign documents; and
  • Perform many other actions!

Many third parties will rely on a certified copy of the Letters of Administration.

So, What is a Letter of Testamentary?

In some states, the probate laws refer to “Letters of Administration” as “Letters of Testamentary” or “Letters Testamentary.” Still, in other states, they have both types of documents, and each conveys different powers.

Is Obtaining a Letter of Testamentary in Florida different from Obtaining Florida Letters of Administration?

Under Florida law, however, you only need to get Letters of Administration. While some Florida probate attorneys or offices may refer to this document as a Letter of Testamentary, there is no difference under Florida law.

How Long Does it Take to Get Letters of Administration?

Obtaining the probate Letters of Administration for the estate is usually a straightforward process under Florida probate rules. It typically takes 1 to 4 weeks after filing with the local circuit court. Follow the step below to obtain the Letters you need on behalf of your loved one.

How to Get a Letter of Administration

The Florida statutes set the rules for obtaining the Letters of Administration during a formal probate process. The Florida probate code sets the rules. Read below to learn how to obtain a Letter of Administration.

1. File the will with the circuit court.

If the deceased person had a will or last will and testament, file the original copy with your local circuit court. There is usually a circuit court in every county. The custodian of the will has 10 days from the decedent’s date of death to file the will.

Provided that the will named a personal representative, the court will name that person as executor. Otherwise, an interested party may file an affidavit seeking appointment as the representative. Finally, Florida law also has an order of preference if no representative is named. The surviving spouse is preferred, but the heir of the estate may consent to the appointment of another party.

2. Hire a probate attorney.

To continue the probate administration process, Florida law requires you to hire an attorney unless the personal representative is (1) the only person with an interest in the estate or (2) an attorney admitted in Florida. This can affect the cost of probate in Florida.

3. Open the probate estate.

Once you’ve hired a probate attorney, petition the circuit court to open the estate. You should first ask the court to recognize the validity of the will and formally appoint a personal representative. Next, you must:

  • File the decedent’s death certificate as proof of death (required to be within 3 months of the date of the first publication of notice to creditors);
  • File your oath of office — it must be a notarized, sworn statement;
  • Designate a resident agent — if you live out of state or in a county far away from the county where the decedent died, your resident agent can receive service of process or notice on your behalf within the county.
  • Provide bond — sometimes, you may have to provide an executor’s bond. However, the testator may waive this requirement in their will or the court may waive it itself.
  • Finally, serve notice of administration — this is required to be served on the surviving spouse, all beneficiaries, trustees where appropriate, and any party entitled to exempt property. These individuals may also waive the notice requirement.

4. Obtain Letters of Administration.

Once notice is served, your probate attorney will present the circuit court with a proposed order and an unsigned draft of the Letters of Administration. The probate judge will then issue a grant of Letters of Administration.

Responsibilities of Personal Representative with Letters of Administration

Once you have the Letters of Administration, you have court-appointed formal powers to act on behalf of the estate. The Letters even relate back in time beforehand to cover any actions taken to protect the decedent’s assets. Therefore, there are certain steps you should take to protect the assets of the estate immediately upon the decedent’s death.

First, you should take any necessary steps to protect the estate’s assets for its beneficiaries and heirs. Is there a possibility of damage to the decedent’s property or a chance that a creditor may repossess an asset? If so, you can move to protect that property by getting a court-appointed curator or acting as the personal representative.

Second, you should begin planning for the probate process and estate administration. List all assets along with location, value, and titles (i.e., who owns what?). Such assets should include:

  • Real property or real estate (including any property held in a tenancy at will);
  • Bank accounts;
  • Insurance policies;
  • Vehicles; and
  • Any and all personal property.

Need Help with Florida Letters of Administration?

The passing of a family member or other loved one is always a stressful time. The Florida probate code, however, provides a clear and defined process for obtaining Letters of Administration and closing out the probate estate. But still, the law does require you to hire a probate attorney.

Our team at Cueto Law Group is experienced in helping Floridians navigate difficult times. Our law firm has the skills and resources to make your probate experience a seamless process. Reach out to us today for a consultation, and we can answer any questions you may have.

Key Takeaways on Estate Letters of Administration

  1. The personal representative of the decedent’s estate must obtain Letters of Administration from the circuit court that has jurisdiction in the location where the decedent died.
  2. Third parties like banks and creditors will require you to present them with the Letters of Administration before they conduct the estate’s business with you.
  3. As the personal representative with Letters of Administration, you have a fiduciary duty to act on behalf of the estate for the interest of its heirs and beneficiaries.