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Letters of Testamentary: What Are They and Why Do I Need Them?

Have you recently lost a loved one and found yourself responsible for their estate?

You may have heard the term “letters of testamentary” thrown about in conversations with lawyers and other professionals. But what exactly are letters of testamentary, and why do you need them?

When someone dies leaving behind an estate, their assets must be managed according to their wishes or those laid out in state law.

This is where letters of testamentary come into play. They give a person the legal authority to manage an estate on behalf of its beneficiaries. Without these letters, no individual has any power over distributing property or settling debts after death—even if they were named as the executor in the deceased’s will.

Read on to learn more about these legal instruments and how they enable you to carry out your duties under probate law. For more information, contact Cary Estate Planning.

What Are Testamentary Letters?

Testamentary letters are documents issued by a court that name someone as an executor of a will. They give the named person legal authority to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate and distribute assets according to their wishes.

Testamentary letters also permit financial institutions to release funds from any accounts held in the deceased’s name, allowing them to carry out instructions from the will.

This is why testamentary letters are important—without them, it can be difficult or impossible for an executor to settle the estate of the deceased.

Who Can Apply for Testamentary Letters?

In order for someone to apply for testamentary letters, they must be at least 18 years old and have legal capacity. Typically, this means they are not involved in any pending lawsuits or bankruptcies, nor do they have any criminal record regarding fraud or financial crimes.

If there is more than one potential applicant, priority will usually be given to family members, such as spouses, children, siblings, or parents.

In some cases, if none of these individuals can serve as the executor or their circumstances deem them unfit for duty, another interested party may become eligible to serve. This could include friends or even institutions, like banks, with proper documentation demonstrating that they have some connection to the deceased’s estate.

It is important to note that whoever applies must also prove that they can take on the responsibility associated with being an executor.

How to Apply for Testamentary Letters

To apply for testamentary letters, you will need to follow these six steps:

  1. Obtain a copy of the deceased person’s last will and testament.
  2. Locate the appropriate probate court in the jurisdiction where the deceased person resided.
  3. File a petition with the probate court requesting testamentary letters.
  4. Provide the court with the necessary documentation, including the death certificate, the original will, and any other required forms.
  5. Attend a court hearing, if necessary, and answer any questions the judge may have.
  6. If approved, the court will issue testamentary letters, giving the executor or personal representative the legal authority to manage the estate.

Applying for testamentary letters can be a complex process, and it’s important to seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that you complete all the necessary steps correctly.

Benefits of Having Testamentary Letters

Testamentary letters are important documents that serve as legal proof of a person’s authority to administer and distribute the estate of a deceased individual. They provide evidence of the validity of the will, which is required in order to carry out any part of its instructions.

Testamentary letters also serve as official notifications to banks, financial institutions, and other creditors that all claims against the estate must be made known so they can be properly addressed.

Having testamentary letters greatly simplifies the process of executing a will by providing clear guidance on who should receive what portion from the estate. It allows for greater accountability among those involved in administering it, ensuring that assets are distributed correctly, according to the wishes laid out in the will itself.

Finally, having these documents ensures that beneficiaries do not have to worry about competing interests or delays due to a lack of information when receiving their inheritances.

When to Seek Professional Help

It can be complex to obtain letters of testamentary and carry out the duties that come with it.

If you’re considering obtaining one, it’s best to seek professional help from an attorney. They are knowledgeable about probate laws and experienced in helping individuals manage estates efficiently and effectively.

Also, they can provide guidance regarding any tax implications associated with managing an estate so you can rest assured all your bases are covered. Don’t go at it alone—get assistance when needed for peace of mind.

If you have more questions, schedule a free consultation with Cary Estate Planning today.

Author Bio

Paul Yokabitus

Paul Yokabitus is the CEO and Managing Partner of Cary Estate Planning, a Cary, NC, estate planning law firm. With years of experience in estate and elder law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including estate planning, guardianship, Medicaid planning, estate administration, and other cases.

Paul received his Juris Doctor from the Campbell University School of Law and is a North Carolina Bar Association member. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Best Attorney in Cary” in 2016 and 2017 by Cary News and Rising Star in 2020-2023 by Super Lawyers.

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