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Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 702: Limited and Restrictive Letters

When a loved one passes away, the executor or estate administrator is tasked with the daunting responsibility of winding up the decedent’s estate and transferring ownership of the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries or heirs. Whether the decedent passed away testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will), the New York Surrogate’s Court must first appoint the administrator before he or she has the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. Upon granting the person who petitions be appointed executor or estate administrator, the Surrogate’s Court will issue that person “Letters.” Letters are a legal decree that authorizes that person named in the document to act on behalf of the estate. With letters, the individual will be able to access the decedent’s accounts, open accounts in the name of the estate, and perform other tasks necessary to wind up the decedent’s estate. While letters issued by the Surrogate’s Court are typically fairly broad, allowing the executor or administrator to perform a wide range of activities for the estate, there are occasions in which the Surrogate’s Court will issue limited letters. If you have questions related to the procedures for administering an estate, including the rules described in Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 702, Limited and restrictive letters, contact an experienced New York estate administration lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.

Related statutory provisions
  1. Requisites of letters: Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, § 701
  2. Letters evidence of authority;  effect of appeal: Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, § 703
  3. Priority among different letters: Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, § 704
Limited and restrictive letters

Letters testamentary are issued by the Surrogate’s Court to the executor named in a decedent’s will, while letters of administration are issued to the appointed estate administrator of an intestate decedent’s estate. As an experienced estate administration lawyer in New York will explain, there are several other types of letters, including limited and restrictive letters. The Surrogate’s Court has the authority to issue letters of administration that are limited in the following circumstances:

  • Claim. The Surrogate’s Court my issue limited letters of administration related to the claim that the decedent had against someone. For example, if the decedent was injured in an accident that was another person’s fault, the judge may issue letters of administration that would allow an administrator to pursue the claim against the person whose negligence resulted in the decedent’s injuries. Similarly, limited letters of administration may be issued related to defending a claim against the decedent.
  • Settlement of claim. Similarly, restricted letters may be issued to adjust settle, satisfy or discharge a claim against or in favor of the decedent.
  • Bond issues. If it was not practical to give a full bond, limited letters of administration may be issued that specifies the property that the administrator is permitted to receive and administer, and preventing him or her from receiving or administering other property.
  • Discharge liability. Restricted letters may be issued by the Surrogate’s Court that allow the administrator to complete activities that would result in a liability of the estate being discharged.
  • Transfer. Restricted letters may be issued to allow the administrator to complete a transfer made by the decedent.
  • Stand in place of fiduciary. Limited letters may be issued to allow someone to represent the estate in a transaction in a situation where the acting fiduciary is not able to act due to a conflict of interest.
  • Action against the fiduciary. Limited letters may be issued to allow someone to maintain an action against the fiduciary, or against anyone else when the fiduciary refuses to act.
  • Surrogate’s Court’s discretion. In addition, as a New York estate administration attorney will explain, the Surrogate’s Court has the authority to issue limited letters for any other purpose that is appropriate for the proper administration of the estate.
Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 702. Limited and restrictive letters

Letters may be granted limiting and restricting the powers and rights of the holder thereof:

  1. To the enforcement or prosecution of a cause of action in favor of the decedent or his fiduciary under general or special provisions of law, to the defense of any claim or cause of action against a decedent or his fiduciary, and restraining the fiduciary from compromise of the action or the enforcement of a judgment recovered therein until the further order of the court and the filing of satisfactory security if required.
  2. Where it is impracticable to give a bond in the full amount required by statute, to receiving and administering only the property which the court may specify, and restraining him from receiving or administering other property until further order of the court.
  3. To the adjustment, settlement, satisfaction or discharge of any claim in favor of or against the decedent or his fiduciary.
  4. To the performance of any act required in order to discharge the estate of a decedent from liability.
  5. To an account in behalf of the decedent for the performance by him of any trust or other responsibility.
  6. To the completion of any transfer made by a decedent or his fiduciary and to the execution of any instruments confirming any transfer so made.
  7. To the appearance in and conduct of an action in which a decedent or his fiduciary is a necessary or proper party.
  8. In the discretion of the court, to represent the estate in a transaction in which the acting fiduciary could not or should not act in his or her fiduciary capacity because of conflict of interest.
  9. To commence and maintain any action or proceeding against the fiduciary, in his or her individual capacity, or against anyone else against whom the fiduciary fails or refuses to bring such a proceeding.
  10. To any other purpose or act deemed by the court to be appropriate or necessary in respect of the affairs of the estate, the protection thereof or to the proper administration thereof.

In any case where limited and restrictive letters are granted the court may reduce the amount of security otherwise required or dispense therewith according to the circumstances.

Any letters may contain appropriate recitals restraining the holder from doing any such acts or exercising any such powers as may be specified therein until the further order of the court and upon the filing, if ordered, of satisfactory security.  The issuance of limited or restrictive letters under this section may be in addition to the issuance of general letters or other, limited or restrictive letters.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have concerns related to the administration of a loved one’s estate, including questions related the requirements of New York SPCA section 702, Limited and restrictive letters, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. Our estate administration attorneys serving New York have decades of experience successfully representing clients in matters related to a variety of estate and probate matters, including matters related to the issuance of letters. Contact one of our skilled attorneys at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Long Island, Nassau County, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County, and Westchester County.

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