Q&A with Loraine: Petition for Letters of Administration

Question: How do I correctly fill out a Petition for Letters of Administration?

Background: My father passed intestate. [Editor’s note: “Passed intestate” means to die without a Will in place.] I am the only child, and he was never married so that would make me the sole heir, I believe. He had nothing other than two acres he left behind. I cannot afford an attorney’s assistance at the moment and was hoping to try and file the Petition myself. I pretty much understand the questions except the part where it says to list all heirs of equal or closer degree. Who would I list on this part of the petition? Only me since I am the sole heir, or do I have to list any of his brothers or sisters or his parents? Please, any advice on this particular question would be greatly appreciated.

Answer from Loraine: Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. It does sound, based on your post, that you were indeed his only heir.

In the part of the Petition for Letters of Administration, there is usually a direction that asks you to list all heirs and to state facts that allow the Court to determine whether there were any other heirs that should have been listed but weren’t. What that means, in a case where the Decedent was not married, had never been married, who only ever had or adopted one child, and who was survived by that child, is that you generally put together a statement that looks something like this:

The Decedent never married during his lifetime and had no surviving spouse. The Decedent only ever had or adopted one child during his lifetime, who is (child’s name here) and who is listed on this Petition as the Decedent’s only heir. There are no other persons who would be the Decedent’s heirs.

You should likely ask the Court to waive bond, inventory, and reports and grant you certain powers as part of that Petition. And, if at all possible, you should really try to find an attorney who works in the applicable probate court and who can at least review the Petition before you file it. You may want to contact the court and see if there are any pro bono services available. For example, in DeKalb County, there is a Probate Information Center that is operated by volunteer attorneys, and that is designed to help people with questions about how to fill out the Petition. Fulton County has something similar. In both cases, however, it is the probate court that keeps the schedule for that center, so you would contact them to schedule.

Best wishes to you.

Key Estate Planning Takeaway: Some straightforward, less complex legal matters, such as the one described in this post, can be handled without an attorney. Before you file the paperwork, however, consider consulting local lawyers who work “pro bono” (free) to make sure you are on the right track to achieve your desired resolution. How do you find these cost-effective attorneys? Contact your local courthouse, legal aid societies, nearby law school or a county or state bar association for help in locating lawyers that can help.

This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.

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