If you are designated as the executor or administrator of someone’s estate, the deceased person trusts you with the responsibility to execute their final wishes related to their estate. Suppose this is your first experience serving as an estate executor or administrator. In that case, there can be a reasonably steep learning curve that includes various important and legally exacting steps that you will need to perform.
One of the questions you will likely find yourself asking is how to obtain letters testamentary, which is a critical first step in the process. As you proceed toward fulfilling the significant responsibility entrusted to you, you should consider visiting with a professional with expertise in these areas. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Ibekwe Law, PLLC in Texas are well prepared to help effectively and efficiently guide you forward and help you understand all of your legal rights and options. Consider giving our legal team a call at 512-505-2753 today.
What Are Letters Testamentary?
As the executor or administrator of someone else’s estate, you will be responsible for seeing the person’s financial matters moving forward. However, before you can get started, you need letters testamentary, which is a document that the probate court issues providing proof that you are the executor or administrator of an estate and have the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate in question. Letters testamentary are a court order, and it is elemental to initiating the process of executing an estate. Better understanding the basics of letters testamentary and being the executor or administrator of an estate can help you move forward on this journey with increased confidence and focus.
What is the Difference Between Letters Testamentary vs. Letter of Administration?
While the terms “letters testamentary” and “letter of administration” are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction. If the person whose estate you will be executing died without a Last Will and Testament (will), it means that they died intestate. In this situation, an heir must apply for a letter of administration (and declaration of heirship) to execute their relative’s estate. On the other hand, letters testamentary are only issued when the decedent has a will in place. The letters testamentary you obtain identifies you as the executor of that will.
What Can I Do With Letters Testamentary?
The letters testamentary you obtain demonstrates that you have the legal right to act as the executor or administrator of the estate in questions and grants you permission to perform all the following tasks on behalf of the estate:
- Pay the estate’s pending debts
- Take inventory of the estate’s assets
- Distribute assets following the decedent’s wishes (as outlined in their will)
- Attend to real estate transactions related to the estate
- Engage in banking endeavors related to the estate
- Focus on other financial matters related to the estate
Your primary function as the executor or administrator of an estate is financial, which makes having professional legal counsel in your corner essential to consider.
How Do I Get Letters Testamentary?
A Texas probate court will issue you letters testamentary, but to begin the process, you will need to provide the court with basic documentation that includes:
- A certified copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament
- The decedent’s certified death certificate
- Identifying information about yourself that demonstrates you are the person named as the executor of the will
This documentation will be filed with the probate court in addition to the requisite letters testamentary forms in the application process. Once you have filed the necessary documentation and forms, the probate court will schedule your hearing date. Ultimately, you will be issued a certified copy of your letters testamentary, and because every financial institution you deal with moving forward is likely to request its own copy, obtaining multiples is well advised.
It is important to note that the process of obtaining letters testamentary can be complicated, and any missteps can set you back considerably. You are not, however, alone in this process. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Ibekwe Law, PLLC in Texas are on your side, ready to help, and are well acquainted with this important process.
Why Are Letters Testamentary Important?
Before obtaining your letters testamentary, you are powerless to move forward on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Once you receive the letters testamentary, you have the legal right to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate; this means that you will be guiding their legacy into the future, which is a meaningful and essential responsibility.
With your letters testamentary, you have the authority required to do everything necessary to carry out the decedent’s final wishes related to their estate, including closing out the estate and distributing all assets within to their heirs and beneficiaries (per their wishes). These are the final acts of the person whose estate you are executing, and your contributions in this effort are both powerful and essential.
Proceed with Confidence by Consulting with an Experienced Texas Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you are the executor or administrator of an estate—whether it is for a loved one or for someone who trusted you enough to bestow you with this weighty responsibility—you very likely have questions about how best to proceed, including about how to obtain letters testamentary. The compassionate and trusted estate planning attorneys at Ibekwe Law, PLLC in Texas are here to help you every step of the way. For more information, please do not hesitate to reach out by contacting or calling us at 512-505-2753 today.