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How to obtain letters of administration in Florida

Letters of administration are needed when a decedent died without a will in Florida. In this post, we break down all you need to know about a letter of administration.

Letters of administration florida

Acting as the personal representative for a loved one’s estate after their passing is no small matter. Maybe you chose to do so before their passing as a way to show your love and care for their wellbeing. But, now that the time has come for you to act on their behalf, you are feeling completely overwhelmed, especially since they did not have a will.

We hear you. That’s why we’ve created this post that outlines all of the information you need to apply for and receive letters of administration in the state of Florida. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

What is a Letter of Administration in Florida?

Similar to letters of administration in other states, letters of administration are legal documents issued by a probate judge that allows a personal representative to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Having these documents filed with the probate court of your jurisdiction allows the personal representative to deal with the assets of the estate, such as:

  • Banks accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Real estate
  • Brokerage accounts

Additionally, other third parties will need a certified copy of the letters of administration to know to who to release the deceased’s assets. In short, this document is crucial to ensuring the estate's assets are dealt with in a manner the deceased would have wanted.

Letters of Administration (Form E4)

Form E4 is the official letter of administration that will be signed by the probate judge in your jurisdiction once all the prerequisite steps have been completed. While getting this signed and approved by a circuit judge is a key step, there are important restrictions to be aware of when it comes to your duty as a personal representative:

  • Unless extended by circumstance or court order, the estate must be closed and dealt with in 12 months.
  • You cannot put this document into a safety deposit box unless you have received an additional court order.
  • You are required to place any liquid assets (cash) into a depository designated by the court. Funds cannot be withdrawn without a court order, and proceeds from any court-ordered property sale must be placed within this depository as well.
  • The letters do not allow you to gift, transfer, borrow, or sell any of the estate assets without a court order.

In Some Cases, You Might Need a Bond:

According to Title XLII Chapter 733 of the Florida Statutes, every fiduciary (someone who has a financial duty acting on behalf of another) granted letters of administration will need to furnish a bond. In simple terms, a bond is a form of insurance that protects the estate and its beneficiaries from financial loss. Unless a bond is not required by a court order, you will need to supply it, along with a fee and Form E4A.

Quick Note: If you choose to, pursuant to subsection 4 of Chapter 733.402, you can petition the court to have the requirement for an estate bond removed, provided you are an interested party.

Ancillary Letters of Administration (Form E9)

If the decedent was a non-resident of Florida but owned real estate in the state, you will likely need Form E9 - Ancillary Letters of Administration. These letters allow the personal representative to administer the real estate located in Florida to the beneficiaries of the estate, as under state law.

Note that the requirements/restrictions of these ancillary letters are the same as the restrictions on the letters of administration (E4)–located above.

How to Obtain a Letter of Administration in Florida

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the most common letters of administration, let’s take a look at how to obtain these documents.

Documents You Will Need

Before receiving the official letter of administration, you will need to submit/file the following documents (usually in the form of a certified copy, or original):

  • Original copy of the death certificate
  • A sworn and notarized oath of office
  • A furnished bond, if required
  • Notice to any surviving family members that have a claim in the decedent’s estate must be served

Step-By-Step Instructions for Obtaining a Letter of Administration:

Pre-Probate

  1. Prior to the estate being opened, you should take note of all the decedent’s assets and get a feel for how large their estate is.
  2. If you are worried about the safety of the assets, hiring a curator to watch over them is a prudent decision.
  3. Finally, if the estate seems complex, or you are grieving too much to handle the estate well, hiring an estate professional to obtain the letter is a good choice.

Opening the Estate:

Once you have completed the above requisite steps, you are now ready to petition for the opening of the estate.

  1. File a petition with the court to open the estate. This petition asks the court to officially recognize you as the personal representative.
  2. File the decedent’s death certificate.
  3. File a notarized and sworn oath of office.
  4. Designate a registered agent (someone who will receive correspondence from the courts on your behalf).
  5. Furnish a bond (if required).
  6. Notify all interested parties that have a claim to a part of the estate (this may be done by posting a notice to creditors).
  7. Present the draft letter of administration to the judge, along with any other court-ordered drafted.
  8. Serve any and all interested parties with a notice of administration.
  9. Once approved, the judge will give you an official letter of administration.

How Much Does a Letter of Administration Cost?

Different probate cases require different types of filings. If you completed the filing yourself, expect to pay around $235-400 for court filing fees.

Here it is broken down:

Probate PetitionFee
For summary administration less than or equal to $1,000.00$235
For summary administration greater than $1,000.00 and ancillary summary administration$345
For formal or ancillary formal administration, curatorship, conservatorship or guardianship of property (including voluntary guardian property)$400

Info provided by: Orange county court of Florida

If the Estate Had Assets in a Trust, Do I Still Need Letters of Administration?

In the case the decedent had their assets in a trust instead of a will or other instrument, then the general probate process can be avoided. Note, however, that some assets will still need to be dealt with by the courts depending on how they were titled, and if they fall under the trust.

Typically, letters of administration in the state of Florida are not required for successor trustees.

Key Takeaways:

  • A letter of administration is a legal instrument used to allow the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to administer the estate.
  • Depending on the type of estate being dealt with, you will need Forms E4, E4A, and/or E9.
  • Make sure you have the original death certificate, a sworn notarized copy of an oath of office, and a furnished bond (if needed) before petitioning the court.
  • When you file with the court of the applicable county, make sure you have all the required forms, and that you have notified all interested parties of your office and their ability to receive assets from the estate if required.
  • The fees for obtaining a letter of administration vary depending on county courts. It's best to check in the appropriate county in which the decedent passed away to determine the cost of a letter of administration.

Need Help Administering An Estate? Look No Further

If you are feeling out of your depth with the myriad of forms, requirements, costs, and steps to keep track of, we hear you. Our estate experts at ClearEstate are compassionate, non-judgmental, and experienced in every kind of estate imaginable.

Whether you are looking for assistance in administration or just some advice, contact us for a quick consultation.

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