After a person passes away, there is often a lot that needs to be done to settle their affairs and distribute their property. This can be a complicated and time-consuming process, especially if the person had significant assets or debts.
One of the first steps in this process is for a personal representative to apply to the probate court for either Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. These legal documents are necessary to give the personal representative, whether an executor or administrator, the authority to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate.
What are Letters Testamentary and Letters of Administration?
In Texas probate, “Letters Testamentary” and “Letters of Administration” are legal documents that grant authority to a person to act on behalf of a deceased person’s estate.
“Letters Testamentary” are granted to the executor named in the deceased person’s will. An “executor” is a person appointed by the deceased to manage their estate and ensure that their wishes are carried out after their death. The Letters Testamentary give the executor legal authority to act on behalf of the estate, including managing assets, paying debts, and distributing property to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
“Letters of Administration,” on the other hand, are granted by a court to a person appointed to manage the estate when there is no will or the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve. They are the same thing as Letters Testamentary when there is no will. The person who is appointed is called the “administrator” instead of the “executor.” The Letters of Administration give the administrator legal authority to act on behalf of the estate in a similar way as the Letters Testamentary.
In both cases, the letters are issued by the probate court and serve as evidence of the personal representative’s authority to act on behalf of the estate.
Why Letters are Needed
Letters Testamentary and Letters of Administration are needed to give the executor or administrator of an estate the legal authority to manage the deceased person’s assets and debts, and distribute the property to the beneficiaries.
Without these legal documents, the executor or administrator would not have the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate, and any actions taken on behalf of the estate could be challenged or deemed invalid.
The Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration provide evidence of the executor or administrator’s appointment by the court and grant them the authority to carry out their duties, which may include accessing bank accounts, selling property, paying debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
Most banks and financial institutions require a copy of the letters before giving out personal information or access to the decedent’s account. They are therefore essential documents in the probate process and are required to ensure that the estate is properly managed and the deceased person’s wishes are carried out.
When Letters are Issued
An application has to be submitted to request Letters Testamentary and Letters of Administration. This is the application for probate.
The clerk of the probate court will then issue a citation to all interested persons of the estate. The citation is served by posting at the county courthouse. The citation must state:
- That the application has been filed,
- The nature of the application,
- The decedent’s name,
- The applicant’s name,
- The time when the court will act on the application, and
- That any person interested in the estate may appear at the time stated in the citation to contest the application.
It should be noted that the probate court may not act on an application for the issuance of Letters of Administration until service of citation has been made.
Who is Eligible to Receive Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration?
Under Section 301.051 of the Texas Estates Code, the following individuals or entities are eligible to receive Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration:
- Executor named in a will
- Administrator designated as authorized under Section 254.006
- Independent administrator designated by all of the distributees of the decedent under Section 401.002(b) or 401.003
- Interested person
An interested person may apply for letters if there is no executor named in the will or if the named executor is disqualified, refuses to serve, is dead, or resigns. They may also apply if there is no will or if the authorized person other than the executor has not designated any person to serve as administrator under Section 254.006 as of the date of the filing of the application and the applicant notifies the court that the authorized person has no intention of doing so.
How to Obtain Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration
You have to file the application for probate, as noted above, to get these letters. There is no other way to get them.
Once the court appoints the executor or administrator, the County Clerk is authorized to issue the letters. The executor or administrator can order original certified copies from the County Clerk’s office.
Upon the court’s issuance of the letters, the personal representative takes his oath of office and posts bond, unless the will or court waives the requirement for a bond.
How to get a Letter of Testamentary in Harris County Texas?
To obtain a certified copy of a Letter of Testamentary in Harris County, Texas, you will need to contact the Harris County Clerk’s Office. Here are the steps:
- Contact the Harris County Clerk’s Office: You can contact the Harris County Clerk’s Office by phone, email, or in person to request a certified copy of a Letter of Testamentary. The contact information for the Harris County Clerk’s Office is as follows: Harris County Clerk’s Office 201 Caroline St. Suite 330 Houston, TX 77002 Phone: 713-274-8600 Email: ccoinfoFM@hccountyclerk.com
- Provide the necessary information: To obtain a certified copy of a Letter of Testamentary, you will need to provide the clerk’s office with the case number, the name of the deceased person, and the name of the executor. You will also need to provide identification and pay the required fees.
- Request the certified copy: Once you have provided the necessary information, you can request a certified copy of the Letter of Testamentary. The clerk’s office will provide you with the certified copy, which will serve as evidence of the executor’s appointment and authority to act on behalf of the estate.
It is important to note that the Harris County Clerk’s Office charges a fee for certified copies of court documents, and the fee may vary depending on the number of pages and the type of document requested.
How Long Does it Take to Get Letters Testamentary?
The process for obtaining Letters Testamentary in Texas can vary depending on several factors, including the court’s schedule and the complexity of the estate. In general, it can take anywhere from 30 days to several months to receive Letters Testamentary after submitting the application for probate.
After the application is submitted, the court will issue a citation to all interested parties of the estate, and there may be a waiting period before the court acts on the application. Additionally, the personal representative may need to post a bond or take an oath of office before the letters are issued.
The overall length of the probate process can also vary depending on the complexity of the estate. Some probate proceedings may be straightforward and completed within a few months, while others may be more complicated and take several years to resolve.
Help with Letters Testamentary in Texas
Obtaining Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration is an essential first step in the process of settling an estate after a person passes away. These legal documents grant the personal representative the authority to manage the deceased person’s assets and debts, and distribute the property to the beneficiaries. Without these letters, any actions taken on behalf of the estate could be challenged or deemed invalid.
If you are dealing with the probate process and need assistance with obtaining Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration in Texas, it may be helpful to consult with our probate attorneys. We can provide guidance and support throughout the process, ensuring that everything is handled correctly and in accordance with the law.
If you need help with your Texas probate matter, call us today for a FREE attorney consultation at (281) 219-9090.
Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including probates and letters testamentary. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.
The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.