Letters of Special Administration are used to avoid waste or loss in an estate, especially where an executor has failed to get a prompt start on proceedings.  Here is a real-life example of a question asked of me.

My husband and I need to challenge executorship of my mother-in-law’s estate. Her husband is ill and not able to handle his duties. She passed in April and he still has not started the probate process and we are in danger of losing the home she left to my husband. What can we do?

Signed, Carla C.


You can file a “Petition for Letters of Special Administration” to obtain specific powers to deal with the real estate. If the petition is approved, the judge will sign an “Order” which you will take to he court clerk to obtain “Letters of Special Administration.” You can use those “Letters” to communicate with the mortgage holder, etc., regarding the real estate.

Most likely, but depending on the level of emergency, you should be asking for an ‘ex parte’ hearing on your petition. That way, you won’t need to wait the 30-40 days until a hearing can be set. Ex parte hearings happen according to a set calendar, usually within 7 days.

You will need forms DE-111 (Petition); DE-140 (Order) and DE-157 (Letters). Depending on what county you are in, you may need additional forms. You will likely be required to post a bond equal to the amount of the property being administered, but that may not be true, if, for example, there is a bond waiver in your mother’s will.

In San Diego County, you will be filing at the Madge Bradley Courthouse – I can’t direct you where to file in other counties. Contact a local probate attorney for more specifics, or contact me at 858-519-8020.

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