Heirs and beneficiaries are often informed by banks, mortgage companies, and other financial institutions that they need Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration to be able to access funds in bank accounts or obtain information related to a mortgage. This article will discuss what these letters are and how to obtain them from the court.
Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration are issued by the County Clerk’s office after a judge has signed an order authorizing the clerk to issue such letters. Letters Testamentary (in the case of a decedent passing with a will) or Letters of Administration (in the case of a decedent passing without a will) document the appointment of a person as an executor or administrator and provide the power for a person to act on behalf of the estate. The basic criteria for issuance of letters testamentary or of administration are outlined in Tex. Est. Code Section 301.151.
The attorney for the executor or administrator will typically prepare an order for the court to sign authorizing the issuance of letters. The relevant part of the order might read as follows: “IT IS FURTHER ORDERED by the Court that Letters Testamentary upon the Will and Estate of Bob Smith, Deceased, be and the same are hereby granted, that the Clerk shall issue said Letters Testamentary to Jane Smith, as Independent Executor, when qualified according to law…”
After the judge signs the order, the attorney for the executor or administrator may then complete an order form with the County Clerk and pay a nominal fee for letters to be produced. Sample language in a typical Letters Testamentary is included below.
I, the undersigned Clerk of the Probate Court No. 1 of Travis County Texas, do hereby certify that on June 1, 2020, Jane Smith was duly granted by said Court, Letters Testamentary of the Estate of Bob Smith Deceased, and she qualified as Independent Executor without bond of said estate on June 15, 2020 as the law requires, said appointment is still in full force and effect. Given under my hand and seal of office at Austin, Texas, on June 30, 2020.
Once letters of testamentary of administration are issued, the executor or administrator may present the document to third parties such as banks, mortgage companies, title companies, funeral homes, etc. to evidence their authority to act on behalf of the estate. It is important to note that the issuance of letters is a small part of the entire administration process. Most of the time, the law requires an executor or administrator to obtain a qualified probate lawyer to assist in the administration process.
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