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The executors guide to letters of testamentary in New York

Obtaining a letter of testamentary from the surrogate court is the key to initiating the probate process. In this post, we will discuss what are they and how to get them.

Letters of testamentary new york

Starting the estate process as an executor in New York is no small task. As an executor, it is crucial to know what Letters of Testamentary are and how to obtain them. In this post, we will show you just that – and more.

What are Letters of Testamentary in New York?

While the title may be confusing, a Letter of Testamentary is not written correspondence. It is a court document issued from the Surrogate’s Court in New York, which entitles you to administer a decedent’s estate. In contrast to a Letter of Administration, the decedent must have a will in place, in which you are named the executor, for you to receive a letter of testamentary.

Only after you have obtained approval from the Court can you retrieve the estate’s assets and administer them accordingly. These actions may include:

  • Opening a bank account for the estate
  • Paying debts of the deceased
  • Collecting claims of the deceased

In Short:

Granted by the Surrogate court of New York, letters of testamentary is an official document recognized by the state - naming you the executor of the estate and granting you authorization to settle the estate.

How to obtain Letters of Testamentary in New York

To obtain an LoT in New York, you will first need to apply to the Surrogate's Court in the county where the deceased resided. As part of the application process, you will need to submit the proper forms and other documentation, such as:

  • The original death certificate
  • The original last will and testament
  • A copy of the funeral bill

Moreover, you will also need to appear in court on your behalf to finalize the process.

In the event that the deceased passed away in a state other than New York, and you have a letter of testamentary from that state, you are still required to obtain a letter of testamentary for the state of New York. This is typically done by verifying the out-of-state LoT via an ancillary probate proceeding.

Note that the only person that can apply for letters is if they are the appointed executor as per the deceased’s will, and they meet the legal requirements (over the age of 18, not a convicted felon, etc.).

How long will it take to get Letters Testamentary?

Generally speaking, obtaining a Letter of Testamentary in New York can take around 3-5 weeks, assuming the will is not being challenged. If probate is contested in any way ie. wrong info on forms, missing hearings, will being contested, then the process may take months to complete.

What are Preliminary Letters Testamentary in New York state?

In contrast to a Letter of Testamentary, Preliminary Letters of Testamentary are similar court orders that are issued when the executor has proven that they need access to estate assets immediately.

In addition, these letters are usually only valid for six months. Having such a limited timeline means that these letters are only issued in situations that require immediate action.

To recap:

Preliminary letters of testamentary are needed when the estate executor needs immediate access to estate assets. For ex: You may need to sell shares to mitigate losses.

How to acquire preliminary letters of testamentary

Similar to applying to an LoT, you will need to submit an “Application for Preliminary Letters Testamentary.” If you are looking to expedite the process, you will submit an “Affidavit of Urgency,” which outlines why your application should be given priority.

Within the application itself, the applicant is required to provide the following information:

  • Their rationale for applying preliminary letters
  • A list of the property of the estate
  • An official notice to all parties involved in the estate
  • An estimate of funds received from rent that would be collected by the estate for the next 18 months

For a more detailed list of what is required for the application of the preliminary letter, you can review the relevant legislation–NY SCPA § 1412.

What situations may warrant Preliminary Letters?

The most common circumstance that will trigger the issuance of preliminary letters is a will contest. If someone is claiming that the will–which names you as the executor–is invalid, then you could wait for over a year for the court to determine the will’s validity.

In the interim, a preliminary letter will be issued to ensure that the deceased’s property is not neglected and the estate is properly managed.

In addition to will challenges, any other sort of delay in obtaining the Letter of Testamentary that could have negative ramifications will likely result in a preliminary letter being issued. Some examples include:

  • When the witnesses to the will cannot be identified
  • When the house of the decedent could go into foreclosure if the executor does not act
  • When certain individuals cannot be found and are needed to be notified for the LoT to be granted

Need help applying for a letter of testamentary? ClearEstate can help.

At ClearEstate, we house a team of probate professionals that can help you successfully apply for Letters Testamentary of Preliminary Letters Testamentary in the state of New York. We offer convenient, easy-to-understand services that are more cost-effective than hiring an attorney. Contact us today!

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