Although the majority of Americans over the age of 50 have estate planning documents, according to the American Association of Retired Persons, the legal process may be confusing for the executor of a loved one’s estate after they pass away. The executor may have questions about how to get a letter of testamentary, the document needed to move forward as estate executor. An experienced estate planning attorney at The Law Office of Jason Carr can help you navigate the complexities of obtaining a letter of testamentary in Texas. Consider reaching out for a consultation at (214) 800 – 2366.
What is a Letter of Testamentary?
An executor of an estate has many responsibilities. These can include:
- Paying estate bills and debts.
- Gathering estate assets.
- Distributing the assets to estate beneficiaries.
However, in order to do all this, the executor must first know how to get a letter of testamentary. This is a document that authenticates an individual as executor of an estate, investing him or her with the powers to manage the deceased’s wishes as expressed in their Last Will and Testament (will).
Who Is Eligible to Obtain Letters of Testamentary in Texas?
In order to obtain letters of testamentary in Texas, the person filing for the papers must meet certain eligibility requirements, as stated in the Estate Code. These include:
- The testator, or the person who has left the will, must have passed away.
- The executor must file an application within four years of the testator’s date of death.
- The court has jurisdiction over the estate.
- The person filing can prove that the will is the final will and that they are entitled by law to the letters.
Who Issues Letters of Testamentary in Texas?
The probate court issues letters of testamentary after approving the will and determining the qualification of the executor. A hearing will then be scheduled, during which the court will review the application and the documents filed, as well as listen to any objections. Probate can be a very complicated process, and the Texas State Law Library suggests that it is important to consider contacting an attorney with critical questions. With regards to questions about how to get a letter of testamentary, consider visiting with the dedicated and compassionate attorneys at The Law Office of Jason Carr to learn more.
How Much Does a Letter of Testamentary Cost in Texas?
The cost to get the actual physical letter is not expensive, ranging from between $5 and $20, however, the process will cost significantly more. Costs will include:
- The filing fee, which will vary depending on the county but can range from about $50 to several hundred dollars or even over a thousand dollars for larger estates.
- The fees associated with hiring an attorney to help navigate probate.
How Do I Get a Letter of Testamentary?
The key question an executor may have after a loved one passes away is how to get a letter of testamentary. There are three key steps that the executor must do to assert their eligibility and obtain the letter. These steps include:
- Obtain a death certificate.
- Get a copy of the will.
- Submit the documents to probate court.
Obtaining a Death Certificate
An executor is only eligible to obtain a letter of testamentary if the testator has passed away. To that end, it is necessary to obtain a death certificate. These can typically be obtained from the local department of vital records, county recorder, or health department and will list the date, time, and cause of death.
Getting a Copy of the Will
Typically, a copy of the will can be obtained from a government department. In Texas, wills are usually filed with the county clerk of the court where the testator lived when he or she passed away. The named executor will need to meet requirements demonstrating that they are, in fact, the executor listed in the will by providing identification.
Often, executors of will already have a copy of the will because the deceased will have given it to them before they passed away. The will may be placed in a safety deposit box in a bank, for example, that the executor has permission to access.
Submitting the Documents to Probate Court
After obtaining these documents, the executor will need to bring copies of the documents as well as any other documents for identity verification and payment of court fees to the probate court. With regard to letters of testamentary, it is typically not possible to avoid the probate process, as the probate court is typically responsible for verifying executors and providing them with a letter of testamentary.
What if There Are Multiple Executors?
In some cases, there may be multiple executors or co-executors. This does not necessarily mean the executors have fifty-fifty control over managing the person’s estate –the executors must decide together how the estate will be managed. Having multiple executors can complicate matters – it may lead to conflicts, or it may mean that financial institutions need all letters of testamentary as well as documentation clarifying the joint decisions. For this reason, it may be preferable to have a single named executor to avoid complicating the processes around how to get a letter of testamentary.
It may also be advisable to declare a backup executor, in the event that the named executor is unable to fulfill his or her role. If an executor is unable to fulfill their role and there is no backup, the deceased person’s assets will go into probate and the process of intestate successions, which can complicate the process even further.
Contact the Law Office of Jason Carr
Understanding how to get a letter of testamentary may seem daunting, which is why it may be helpful to work closely with experienced and compassionate attorneys through the process. The Law Office of Jason Carr focuses on helping to make difficult processes – like getting a letter of testamentary – manageable. Consider reaching out for a consultation today at (214) 800 – 2366.