Settling an estate is a process that is complicated and unfamiliar for many people. Unfortunately, there isn’t a shortcut to settling an estate. For this reason, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some terms, especially if you anticipate being involved with a will or executorship.
Among the terms you should familiarize yourself with is the letter of testamentary. If you’re among many who have never come across this term, continue reading to learn a thing or two about it.
What’s A Letter Of Testamentary?
Once a person dies, a probate court issues a letter of testamentary. This letter bears the information that proves one is legally authorized to act as a legal executor for the deceased’s estate.
Besides the letter of testamentary, an executor must provide the decedent’s death certificate to perform real estate, banking, and asset distribution transactions. Sometimes, banks and other institutions might request to keep the letter of testamentary, hence the importance of having several copies. Some states refer to a letter of testamentary as a letter of appointment or authority.
How Do You Get A Letter Of Testamentary?
After a loved one has passed on to the next life, a spouse, parent, adult child, or a close loved one is named the executor. In most cases, the executor is named in a will. However, if the deceased didn’t leave a will and had not named an executor, the court would appoint one. Nevertheless, even after a court names you as the executor, you still need to get the actual letter of testamentary. To acquire it, you’ll need to follow the following steps:
- Gather The Necessary Documents: These documents include a copy of the original will (if available), the deceased’s death certificate, proof of identity, and other documents the court might need. It might also help if you consult an estate planning attorney for more information on what might be required in your case.
- Submit The Application: Once you’ve collected the required documents, the next step should be petitioning the court for the letter. At this point, you need to file an application obtained from a local court, county office, or estate planning attorney.
- Appear Before The Court: After applying for a letter of testamentary, you’ll attend a court hearing once the application has been verified and approved. In some states, you can apply online, and you might not need to appear in court. The judge will evaluate the will and assess your capability to serve as an executor. The judge will ensure you’re over 18 years old and have a sound mind before concluding.
After the judge has verified the will and determines you’re an adult fit to become an executor, they approve the request and provide you with the letter of testamentary.
Why Do You Need A Letter Of Testamentary?
The executor has several responsibilities during estate administration. Some of these responsibilities include paying off debts and filing tax returns on behalf of the deceased. To execute these responsibilities, the executor must have a document proving they’re legally authorized to perform such duties, especially when making financial decisions on behalf of the deceased.
For example, a letter of testamentary is necessary when closing the deceased bank accounts, opening an estate account, or selling property. In a nutshell, a letter of testamentary proves you’re the fiduciary or have the estate’s best interest when representing it.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Letter Of Testamentary?
An executor might wait several weeks to a few months before receiving a letter of testamentary. However, the waiting period depends on the court’s proceedings and the state’s probate law. It’s vital to mention that delays can result from a loved one rejecting the named executor and wanting to dispute the appointment. To avoid this, many people who wouldn’t want their estates tied up in probate prefer opening a trust as part of the estate plan.
Is A Letter Of Testamentary Expensive?
The amount you pay to get a letter of testamentary depends on the state and the complexity of the estate. However, some courts charge a flat fee. In most cases, getting a letter of testamentary for a larger estate might attract a higher fee than a smaller one. Also, some courts waive the fee for small estates under a particular value.
A letter of testamentary is a document provided by the court proving that a particular person has the legal right to perform the executor’s duty on behalf of the deceased. Once an individual has been issued this letter, they can handle the financial responsibilities of the estate.