If a responder or survivor passes away due to an eligible 9/11-related health condition, their family may be entitled to recover compensation from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on their behalf. However, a personal representative must first be appointed and authorized to file and collect payment on the claim — typically, this authority is obtained through Letters of Administration. Importantly, the VCF recently updated its policy regarding how it evaluates the limitations that may be included in Letters of Administration for the purpose of processing VCF awards. It’s essential to be aware of the types of limitations that can be placed on a personal representative and how they can impact a claim.
How to Become an Authorized Personal Representative
To become an authorized personal representative for the purpose of filing a VCF claim, Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary must be obtained from the probate court. Specifically, Letters of Administration are used when the responder or survivor does not have a valid will. Letters Testamentary apply in cases where the individual is appointed in a will. The procedures associated with obtaining these documents are separate from the VCF’s process of filing a deceased claim.
What are the Common Types of Limitations on Letters of Administration?
While only an authorized personal representative may file a VCF claim for a deceased victim, the Special Master must first validate this individual and determine whether they have the authority to file the claim and collect the award. In doing so, the Special Master will look to the Letters of Administration, Letters Testamentary, or any orders issued by a court. However, there are often limitations imposed in these documents that restrict a personal representative’s ability to file a VCF claim or collect payment on it.
Common limitations that may be placed on Letters of Administration can include the following:
- Limitations regarding the personal representative’s authority to file, prosecute, and/or compromise a claim — In these cases, the VCF may still accept the Letters of Administration or order issued by a probate or surrogate’s court when it comes to filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim. However, the personal representative would not be able to receive a VCF award until they obtain a revised document from the court that authorizes them to collect payment.
- Limitations that restrict the amount of funds a personal representative can collect on behalf of the decedent’s estate — If the Letters of Administration restrict how much a personal representative can collect on behalf of the decedent’s estate, the VCF will accept these documents. But it will not make any payments in excess of the limitation without a further order issued by the court.
- Limitations that restrict the personal representative’s authority to specific actions — If the Letters of Administration only specify that they are permitted to take certain actions, the VCF will usually not process a claim until the court expands their authority.
- Time-limited court orders — When the Letters of Administration or court order contains an expiration date, the VCF will require a revised order if the personal representative’s authority expires before the award being issued.
Sometimes, an individual who would otherwise be the personal representative of the victim’s estate is unable to obtain an appointment as the personal representative from the probate court. In these cases, they may make a request to the Special Master to appoint them for the limited purpose of filing a VCF claim.
Contact an Experienced New York City 9/11 VCF Attorney
If you lost a loved one due to a 9/11-related health condition, you may be eligible to recover compensation from the VCF by filing a deceased claim. However, the VCF’s procedures are often confusing, and it’s vital to have the representation of a knowledgeable VCF attorney who can guide you through the process.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. have represented claimants and their families in 9/11 VCF claims for over a decade. For a free consultation, contact us today.