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Probate / Estate Administration

Monday, June 26, 2017

Probate: An Overview of Letters Testamentary


An individual who has been named as the executor in a will has a number of important duties that are centered on collecting the decedent's property and transferring it to the rightful heirs through probate. This is a court-supervised process that governs how an estate is managed and distributed.

How is the Probate Process Started?

Before the probate is opened, the person named as the executor in the will must obtain Letters Testamentary. This is a legal document that gives the executor legal authority to carry out his or her duties, including:

  • Collecting and inventorying the estate assets
  • Having the assets appraised
  • Paying valid debts to creditors
  • Filing the decedent's final income taxes
  • Paying applicable estate taxes
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries

In order to obtain this document, the executor needs to petition the surrogate court in the county in which the decedent lived. This requires submitting the death certificate with the court clerk as well as completing an application.


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