This is a comprehensive guide containing everything you need to know about contested letters of administration. From what this legal document is, to why it might be contested and exactly how you take action if this occurs. Whether you're considering contesting or being contested against, this post will have something for you.
What a letter of administration is
Important steps to take if this occurs
The secret to avoiding contested letters of administration
Let's dive right in.
What is a letter of administration?
A letter of administration is a legal document issued by a court that appoints an individual to manage the estate of a deceased person. This is required when the deceased did not leave a will and when there is no appointed executor to manage the estate.
This legal document grants authority to the appointed individual, known as the administrator, to collect and distribute the deceased person's assets, as well as pay any remaining debts. Given that there was no will left, the intestacy laws in the state where the deceased lived will determine how the estate is shared amongst relatives.
3 Reasons why a letter of administration might be contested?
A letter of administration may be contested if someone disputes the appointment of the administrator, or the distribution of the assets. It’s important for both the administrator and any potential contestants to understand what this means and why it might occur. We cover the basics below:
Unsuitable administrator to manage estate
You might contest the letter of administration if you believe the appointed administrator isn’t acting in the best interest of the deceased person’s beneficiaries, or has conflict of interest due to also being a beneficiary. If this is the case, you can dispute the letter of administration with the courts to put a halt on their authority
2. Someone else in mind
Especially when you don’t believe the appointed administrator is suitable, you might have someone else in mind who you believe has better authority to complete this role. Whether it's yourself or someone else close to the deceased, differing family and relationship dynamics can create fiery disputes over who is more entitled and suitable to be the administrator.
3. Distribution Disagreements
A letter of administration may also be contested if there is a disagreement over the intended distribution of assets in the estate. This could be because the distribution violates the laws of intestacy, or because some beneficiaries believe they are entitled to a larger share of the assets.
At an emotional time, family disagreements can become heated and prolonged. Generating substantial barriers to the distribution of the deceased assets, if the letter of administration continues to be contested.
What to do if a letter of administration is contested?
Firstly, it's important to seek legal guidance to resolve any dispute over a letter of administration. This may involve going to court and presenting evidence to support the appointment of the administrator or the distribution of the assets.
As the administrator, it's important to act fairly and transparently given that any wrongdoing or mishandling of the estate may result in removal from the role. It’s an emotionally and legally delicate situation, so acting with a legal professional is crucial here.
The role of a will
Planning an estate can be an unpleasant task at the best of times. Whether it sparks family dramas, takes time out of your day or is just plain boring- it’s often viewed as an unpleasant chore, which many choose to avoid. Leaving the planning of your estate to the raw aftermath of your death, can however create lasting damage. Both for the unprotected assets left abandoned amid any legal hold ups, and also between family members who might be more likely to have disputes in this emotional time.
Creating your will before death avoids these emotional and financial burdens on your family. In clearly outlining the distribution of assets and the appointment of an executor to manage the estate, there's no need for a letter of administration. Ultimately granting you peace of mind, saving your family stress and ensuring your wishes are seen through.
To Wrap up:
A letter of administration may be contested due to disputes on the administrator's suitability, or disagreements over the distribution of your assets. If this happens, it's important to seek legal guidance and act transparently according to this advice.
Ultimately- the key takeaway is that disputes happen and can be navigated through. Crucially however, in writing your will early and planning ahead, you can avoid this stress for your family.
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