What is Probate?
Probate is a multi-step process. During probate, the court-administered process requires itemizing and valuing a deceased person’s estate. Once that valuation is complete, the court can approve final distribution. With this in mind, it can be nine months or more before the heirs and survivors are eligible to receive their inheritance. If the decedent created a will, probate distributes the estate assets according to what the will says. If the decedent died without a will, probate will distribute the estate assets according to California’s intestate succession laws.
What are Letters Testamentary?
The court issues Letters Testamentary in probate when there is a Will. On the contrary, if the decedent did not have a Will, the Letters are called Letters of Administration. Letters Testamentary provide an appointed executor (or personal representative) the right and authority to settle the decedent’s estate according to the terms of the Will. In some situations, the court will require the executor to post a bond before getting Letters of Testamentary in probate. For example, the last will of the decedent may waive the bond requirement. Sometimes a decedent’s will specifies a specific bond amount. However, even if everyone agrees to waive bond, most courts will require a bond if a personal representative lives outside California.
Letters Testamentary Give Authority
The personal representative is typically not able to act on behalf of the estate until the court issues Letters. As a result, getting Letters of Testamentary in probate is a vital document in the probate process. For example, Letters officially permit the executor to act in the place of the decedent. In other words, issued Letters allow the representative to contact and speak to banks, creditors, pay bills and take other action on behalf of the estate. At the same time, Letters Testamentary permit the representative to complete an inventory of the decedent’s estate. This inventory includes an appraisal of all non-monetary assets, and sometimes, liquidation of assets. With Letters, the personal representative can use the estate assets to pay taxes and creditors.
As you can see, without getting Letters of Testamentary in probate, the personal representative would have difficulty settling an estate. In the end, Letters Testamentary are the key component to a personal representative being able to perform all of their duties. Remember, the probate process is complex, and it is crucial you prepare the probate documents correctly. A People’s Choice has over 40 years of experience and can help you through this process.
How to Get Letters Testamentary in Probate
First, if the decedent had a Will, you should lodge the original Will with the probate court. Next, you must prepare a probate petition. Include a copy of the decedent’s Will and death certificate with the petition. There are usually numerous attachments to the probate petition. Remember, as soon as you file the petition, the court will schedule a hearing date.
The next step is publication. The publication is part of the critical noticing requirement in all probate cases. You must meet several rules and specifications to properly complete publication. Keep in mind, the publication can cost between $200 and $800 on average. At the probate hearing, if there was a Will, the court will verify its validity and confirm the personal representative or executor to administer the estate. If there is no Will, the court will appoint an administrator for the estate. The duties of a personal representative or the administrator are the same. Each is empowered to act in a responsible and fiduciary manner to settle the estate.
Attorney Not Required
The probate process takes approximately nine months to complete. Although this may be true, the process is very procedural. Because of this, it is quite easy for someone to complete a California probate without hiring a lawyer. However, in the event you don’t want to hire an attorney, we wouldn’t recommend trying to complete probate without any professional help. Using the services of a legal document assistant is a great way to save money, avoid statutory attorney fees and easily settle your probate estate. In reality, a legal document assistant with probate expertise can quickly help you navigate the probate process.
A People’s Choice offers complete guidance during probate of your loved one’s estate. Not only do we help to complete and file all paperwork, we also provide case management services to make sure your case stays on track. We can help you get Letters of Testamentary or Letters of Administration in your probate case. Contact us today to start the process.
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