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Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 703: Letters Evidence of Authority;  Effect of Appeal

When someone passes away, he or she will leave an estate. An estate is the property that the decedent left as well as the debts. It is up to an administrator to settle the estate, pay the estate’s creditors, and transfer the assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs. If the decedent made a will, the person named as the executor would have the responsibility of administering the estate. However, as a skilled New York estate administration lawyer will explain, the person named as executor in a last will and testament will not have the legal authority to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate and perform estate administration activities until a New York Surrogate’s Court judge awards him or her authority and issues him a document called, “Letters.” If you are an interested party in a probate or estate administration process, and you have questions about the probate or estate administration process and the role of letters, including the rules described in Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 703, Letters evidence of authority;  effect of appeal, contact an experienced New York estate administration attorney at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.

Related statutory provisions
  1. Requisites of letters: Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, § 701
  2. Priority among different letters: Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, § 704
Letters testamentary

There are several types of “letters.” If the decedent left a will naming an executor, the letters issued that person would be called “letters testamentary.” Before the court will issue letters to the named executor, the executor must petition the court requesting letters. If the named executor qualifies and there are no valid objections, then the judge will issue the named executor letters. As long as the person is at least 18 years old, the named executor would be approved unless he or she a felon, is incompetent, has a history of dishonesty, negligence, or substance abuse, is a nondomiciliary alien, or is otherwise unfit to serve.

If the named executor declines to serve as executor or is not qualified, then the court will award letters to another person. The Surrogate’s Court judge would issue that person “letters of administration with will annexed.”

Letters of administration

If the decedent did not leave a will, then the certain individuals would be eligible to petition the court to be named estate administrator. The court will appoint the qualified person who has the highest priority under New York law. For more information about who is eligible to petition the court to be appointed estate administrator, contact a skilled estate administration attorney in New York.

Responsibilities of an administrator

With letters in hand, the executor or estate administrator will have the legal authority to go about the business of settling the decedent’s estate. Administrators typically are given the power to inventory and preserve estate assets, pay estate debts, expenses, and taxes, and disburse estate assets to beneficiaries and heirs.

Banks, brokerages houses, and other people and businesses that you must deal with on behalf of the estate may require you to produce copies of the letters as, as under Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 703. Letters evidence of authority;  effect of appeal, the letters conclusively prove legal authority. The letters will no longer be in effect if the Surrogate’s Court that issued them later suspends, revokes, reverses, or modifies them.

Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act § 703. Letters evidence of authority;  effect of appeal
  1. Subject to the provisions of the succeeding section, letters granted by the court are conclusive evidence of the authority of the persons to whom they are granted until the decree granting them is reversed or modified upon appeal or the letters are suspended, modified or revoked by the court granting them.
  2. A certificate of letters testamentary or of administration duly issued by the clerk of the court shall be sufficient evidence, subject to the provisions of subdivision one hereof, of the existence of such letters and the identity of the fiduciary for all purposes for six months after the date of such issuance.
Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have concerns related to estate or probate administration, including questions related to voluntary administration such as the requirements of New York SPCA section 703, Letters evidence of authority;  effect of appeal, contact an experienced estate administration attorney serving New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We have the skill and resources to ensure you’re your interests are protected. Contact one of our experienced 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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