What is the Letters of Testamentary and why is it important?

If an Estate is being settled via Probate, the process frequently involves numerous tasks with unfamiliar vocabulary. Such is the situation with obtaining the Letters of Testamentary.
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know.
• What does the term “Letters of Testamentary” mean?
• What is the process for obtaining a Letters of Testamentary?
• Is it possible to obtain a Letters of Testamentary in the absence of a Will?
• What is the cost of obtaining a Letters of Testamentary?

What does the term “Letters of Testamentary” mean?
A Letters of Testamentary is a legal document issued by the Probate court to the Executor of an Estate. This document authorizes the Executor to act on behalf of the deceased person and manage their financial and other affairs to settle their Estate. Essentially, it grants the Executor the power to act as a trustworthy representative.

When an Executor has Letters of Testamentary and a legitimate death certificate, they typically have the necessary authorization to manage the fundamental financial and administrative tasks required to finalize an Estate. These documents enable the Executor to settle any debts or taxes owed by the Estate, as well as access and close out any accounts owned by the deceased.

What is the process for obtaining a Letters of Testamentary?
When a person dies, a close family member or friend such as a spouse, adult child, parent or other relative is typically chosen as the Executor. This is usually specified in the deceased person’s Will. The Executor is then able to obtain the necessary paperwork to proceed with handling the deceased person’s affairs.

In order to obtain the Letters of Testamentary, you will be required to furnish a majority, if not all, of the following information:
• If possible, provide a duplicate of the Will outlining the distribution of assets after death.
• Death Certificate
• Any forms that the court may require.
• Details about yourself (to correctly recognize you as the suitable Executor)

After submitting the necessary documents, application, and fees to the court, a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the court will confirm the validity of the Will and determine if you are qualified to act as Executor. Once approved, you will be issued Letters of Testamentary.

NOTE: It is advisable to ask for several duplicates since numerous establishments will demand the original documents.

Is it possible to obtain a Letters of Testamentary in the absence of a Will?
To put it briefly, it is possible to obtain a Letters of Testamentary even if the deceased person did not leave a Will (known as dying intestate). In such a scenario, an additional step is involved in the process.
If there is no Will or other Estate plan, the initial step is to initiate Probate proceedings in the local courts. After that, a hearing will be scheduled to appoint an Administrator (also referred to as a Personal Representative), who is usually a spouse or the closest relative.

The person in charge, known as the Administrator, will have the responsibility of listing all the possessions in the Estate, resolving any outstanding debts, and making tax payments. To obtain the necessary legal power to handle these matters and other Estate-related affairs, the Administrator will receive a document called a Letters of Administration.

How do Letters of Testamentary differ from Letters of Administration?
The Letters of Testamentary grant an Executor the power to act on behalf of the Estate, allowing them to carry out all necessary tasks to finalize the Estate and distribute assets to rightful beneficiaries. This is the official procedure that takes place when a Will has been left by the deceased, designating an Executor/Personal Representative.

When a person passes away without specifying who should manage their Estate, a Letters of Administration is issued. The court appoints an Administrator who is granted the same powers as an Executor with a Letters of Testamentary.

What is the cost of obtaining a Letters of Testamentary?
Obtaining the Letters of Testamentary may require a significant amount of effort and expense, even though the physical document itself is relatively inexpensive, typically costing between $5 and $50 per original copy depending on the court and state.

You will be required to make payments for the following:
• When you initiate Probate, you are required to pay a filing fee which varies depending on the court fees in your locality and can range from approximately $50 to $1500.
• When you decide to employ a Probate lawyer, you will have to pay fees. It is difficult to determine the exact amount of legal expenses you will incur during the Probate process. Several factors, such as the Estate’s size and complexity and the lawyer’s expertise, come into play. Typically, Probate attorney fees may begin at approximately $2,500.

Is it necessary to have a Letters of Testamentary when dealing with a Trust?
You are not required to obtain Letters of Testamentary in order to manage a Trust. In reality, managing a Trust avoids the entire Probate procedure and removes the necessity for any court involvement. These are significant benefits of creating a Trust in the first place.

Establishing and adequately financing a Trust can be beneficial for your family members by saving them time, money, and a significant amount of stress. Trusts are confidential and can provide relief for your beneficiaries. It is simple and cost-effective to plan your Trust with the reliable community of EstatePros.

Planning for the possibility of death may be uncomfortable, but it is wise and necessary. By understanding the process and procedures that our loved ones will have to go through, we can take steps now to make things easier for them in the future.