If the estate is going through the probate process, the court needs to appoint someone to act on behalf of the estate. This person is then responsible for gathering the assets and property of the estate and settling all debts and taxes of the decedent. The appointed representative can then deal with different institutions such as banks, tax institutions, life insurance companies, financial institutions, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many of these institutions, will refuse to speak to someone about the decedent’s funds without court issued “Letters.”
Different Types of “Letters”
There are several different types of Letters the court can issue. The following information will help you to understand the different terminology used in probate court when referring to the granting of Letters. Keep in mind that term “Letters” is not an actual letter but rather a court document that grants authority to the personal representative.
“Letters” refers to:
- “Letters of Administration” when there is no will
- “Letters of Testamentary” when there is a will, or
- “Letters of Administration with Will Annexed” when there is a will, but the will failed to name an executor.
For this article, we will discuss how to get letters of administration in probate.
How to Get Letters of Administration in Probate
In order to get Letters of administration, someone must petition the court to be named as personal representative of the estate. The court will hold an initial probate hearing. If the Petition is in proper order and approved, the court will formally grant the personal representative authority to act on behalf of the estate. Once the Judge has signed the Order for Probate, the Court Clerk can issue formal Letters of administration. This is just the first step in the probate process.
Getting “Letters” May Require a Bond
To get Letters of administration in probate, the court requires the administrator to swear an administrator’s oath in writing. Before the court will issue Letters, the estate administrator may have to post a bond to protect the estate against mismanagement.
There are times when a bond is not required. For example, when there is a Will, the bond requirement has often been waived by the decedent. If the will does not provide for waiver of bond, the heirs can ask the court to waive the bond requirement. There are situations, however, when the court will require the personal representative to get a bond. This requirement is usually for personal representatives who live out-of-state. A bond for out-of-state personal representatives may be required even if the heirs have waived bond or the will waives bond.
Getting “Letters” Requires Filing Probate
Note that court only allows someone to get letters of administration in probate if the estate is settled through a full probate procedure. Many estates are settled through trust administration or through small estate procedures. In these situations, it will not be possible to get Letters of administration. Sometimes bank employees incorrectly tell people they need Letters. The banks do this because their employees are simply following a bank manual. Keep in mind, bank employees are not lawyers and do not understand California probate law. If you have been told you need “Letters” but the estate is worth less than $150,000, do not assume this is true. You may need to educate the bank employee about California probate law. Often in smaller estates it is not necessary to get letters of administration.
If you need to get letters of administration in probate, contact A People’s Choice. You don’t need to hire an attorney to get letters of administration in probate. Attorneys are very expensive and charge statutory fees that are based on the value of the estate. A People’s Choice can help you get letters of administration. More importantly, we can help you complete probate at a fraction of the cost an attorney will charge. Call us today at 800-747-2780 for immediate help.
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