Posted in Estate Planning, Probate, San Antonio, Texas
How To Obtain Letters Testamentary in Texas
What Are Letters Testamentary in Texas and How Can You Obtain Them? After someone passes away, an executor or personal representative will be named by the court to gather the assets of the decedent, pay bills, and make distributions according to that person’s last will and testament (if they had one). But before the executor can administer an estate according to the will, they will need to apply for the legal right to administer the estate – this process is called PROBATE. This will require the executor to obtain Letters Testamentary from the Probate Court, giving them that legal authority. What is the Purpose of Letters Testamentary? Letters testamentary are a court order issued by the probate court legally entitling the executor to act on behalf of the estate and administer the will. During the administration of a will in Texas, most financial institutions and other entities will require a copy of the letters testamentary before they will grant the executor any information about or access to the decedent’s assets. This court order serves as proof to all involved that the executor has the proper legal appointment and qualification to administer the will and to gain access to all of the decedent’s necessary accounts. How Are Letters Testamentary Obtained in Texas? In order to obtain letters testamentary in Texas, the probate court must approve the will and determine the qualification of the executor. To do this, the executor must file an application with the appropriate county court with the original will within four years of the decedent’s death. A hearing will be scheduled, allowing the court to review the application, all documents filed and potentially listen to any objections by any other interested parties concerning the will of the decedent. Once an application is made, the court will issue and post a citation advising any interested parties that an application has been filed, the nature of the application, who has filed it, and when the hearing is scheduled. At this time, any interested parties may appear to contest the application. Once the probate court makes its ruling, the probate process can begin. In most cases, letters testamentary will be issued within 30 days of the hearing, unless further hearings are required. Once issued, the executor can present it to any third parties to evidence their authority to act on behalf of the estate. What Happens if There is No Will? Letters testamentary is only issued when there is a valid will. If there is no will, an heir to the estate can submit an application to the court to act as administrator of the estate. The probate court will schedule a hearing to review any application and select an administrator of the estate based on Texas intestate laws. Once the court selects an administrator, it will provide that person with an order called letters of administration, giving them essentially the same legal access to the decedent’s accounts as letters testamentary do. So, we call them something different, but functionally they are the same thing. Getting the Assistance of an Experienced Texas Probate Attorney While obtaining letters testamentary is usually a straightforward process, this assumes that there is a properly drafted will in effect and nobody is contesting it. Obtaining this authority is only one small part of estate administration that will be required by the executor. Getting the help of a qualified Texas probate lawyer helps ensure that the process goes smoothly and can deal with any unforeseen matters that may arise. If you need assistance with obtaining letters testamentary, contact us at the Law Offices of Ryan Reiffert to schedule an appointment.