The probate court is the institution that issues letters of testamentary.  A letter of testamentary is a legal document giving an individual the power to act as the executor for an estate.  As the executor, you need to present this letter of testamentary and a copy of the death certificate whenever you handle estate business, whether it is paying off debt, collecting money owed, or distributing the final property and assets.  These two documents, the letter of testamentary and the death certificate, indicate that you have the legal authority to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate.

An executor is the individual entrusted by the deceased with the responsibility of ensuring that an individual’s last wishes are carried out in terms of the disposition of their assets and possessions.  The executor is in charge of making sure that any and all debt and creditors are paid what they are owed, of collecting any money owed to the estate, and then distributing any remaining property and money to the beneficiaries as stipulated in the will.  If the deceased did not have a will and did not name an executor, the probate court will step in and assign the role of executor, usually to a family member or close friend of the deceased.

In order for an executor to be able to pay bills, collect money, take inventory of property and other assets, and distribute the estate he or she must receive legal authority to do so from the probate court.  This legal authority comes in the form of a letter of testamentary.

Probate court is the part of the judicial system that deals with matters such as will, estates, and guardianships.  The purpose of the probate court is to ensure that any debts owed by the deceased are paid in full and that any remaining assets are distributed to the correct beneficiaries.  Probate handles the legal process of dealing with the assets and debt of the deceased, the court system that handles the process, as well as the final distribution of the remaining assets.

How to Get a Letter of Testamentary

Before the executor can get a letter of testamentary, he or she must file the death certificate and the will with the probate court.  In addition, he or she needs to fill out the necessary forms requesting that the probate court recognize him or her as the executor.  The probate court grants this recognition through a letter of testamentary. The form will require various pieces of information such as the estimated value of the estate and the date of the deceased’s death.

After receiving the necessary paperwork, the probate court will set a date for a hearing when the information provided will be verified and ensuring that the executor is capable of serving as executor and meeting the qualifications set by the state.  Qualifications typically include that the individual is mentally capable of handling the executor duties and also that he or she is not a felon.  Only after this has taken place will a letter of testamentary be issued.  The length of time for the process to occur varies depending on the location.  Depending on how busy the court is, it could take anywhere from several weeks to possibly several months.

What to Do After Receiving the Letter of Testamentary

After receiving the letter of testamentary from the probate court, the executor is responsible for handling the affairs of the estate in accordance with any applicable state and federal laws.  The executor now has the authority to obtain any cash or property owed to the estate by other individuals or companies.  He or she also is now legally responsible for paying any outstanding debts, including state and federal taxes.  Finally, after fulfilling these two duties, the executor distributes any remaining property or other assets in accordance with the deceased’s wishes, all while following and meeting any state expectations according to the probate court.