What is a letter of testamentary
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What Is a Letter of Testamentary?

To fulfill your obligations as the executor of an estate, you are required to first be given the authority by means of a letter of testamentary.

As the executor of an estate is going to mean you are going to oversee paying bills, cataloging assets, and making allocations to beneficiaries. But to accomplish this, you must be granted the legal authority to serve by a court. A letter of testamentary grants you this authority.

What is a testamentary to an estate?

This letter, implemented by a probate court, provides an executor with the power to act in a fiduciary way on the estate’s behalf. You submit the document together with the death certificate when you oversee estate business to demonstrate that you have the authority to act on behalf of the estate.

How to acquire a letter of testamentary

To acquire your letter of testamentary, you are going to need to file the will and death certificate through the probate court, alongside documents requesting for the letter of testamentary. You are going to need to provide your information, in addition to some initial information about the value of the estate and the date of passing.

The court is going to schedule a hearing to validate the information and make sure you can serve and fulfill state qualifications. The letter then gets issued to you.

You might be wondering how long it takes to acquire a letter of testamentary. This differs by location. It could take several weeks to several months, depending on the court schedule.

Letter of testamentary lacking a will

When someone passes away lacking a will, it’s known as dying intestate. Even though an individual passes away intestate, they still are going to likely have assets and liabilities that need to be resolved. The individual’s leftover assets are allocated to their heirs, that are established by state statute. Typically, assets go primarily to a surviving spouse and, when there is none, then to children, and then to more distant relatives, but the exact statutes differ by state.

Even though there isn’t a will, someone is required to still do the work of closing the estate’s affairs and distributing assets. The court names an administrator, that fulfills basically the same undertaking as an executor. The administrator usually must be the decadent’s spouse or next of kin, however, it could be someone that has an interest in the estate.

The laws regarding this are different by state. A letter of administration is issued to the administrator, granting them the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.


  1. What is a letter of testamentary?. LegalZoom. (n.d.). https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/what-is-a-letter-of-testamentary

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