What are Letters of Administration and How Do I Get Them?

Quite commonly, after their loved one has died clients come to us as estate attorneys and they tell us that a bank or other financial institution is asking for "Letters of Administration." When that happens, the client will ask us how do they get such Letters. 

In Florida, Letters of Administration are a type of order entered by the probate court authorizing the Personal Representative of the Estate to act. In other states, these orders are sometimes called "Letters Testamentary" but they are affectively the same type of probate court order. With the Letters of Administration in hand, the Personal Representative of the Estate has the power to do essentially all things necessary in the administration and distribution of the Estate.  

In Florida, Letters of Administration are issued early in the probate proceeding. Specifically, they usually follow appointment of the Personal Representative and posting of the Personal Representative's Bond.

The language typically contained in these Letters in Florida is as follows:

I, the undersigned Circuit Judge, declare _______ to be duly qualified under the laws of the State of Florida to act as Personal Representative of the Estate of ________, 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.

What is surprising to many clients is that in order to have Letters of Administration issued in Florida, a probate must be opened and a Personal Representative must be appointed. For this reason, when Letters are needed, a summary administration will not do--since there is no Personal Representative appointed and no Letters issued in that type of probate proceeding. These are done only in a formal probate. 

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