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What are letters testamentary in a will probate process?

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Quick Answer

Letters testamentary is a document issued by a probate court to the executor of the estate of a deceased person, according to Nolo. This document authorizes the executor to settle the estate as outlined in the person's will.

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Full Answer

When someone is named the executor of an estate, he needs to probate the will, according to Nolo. Appointed individuals petition the court for probate; the letters testamentary are issued to officially appoint the executor. The executor is in charge of protecting the estate assets and making sure the named beneficiaries in the will receive their share of the estate.

Nolo further explains the duties of an executor, which include obtaining an employer identification number from the IRS; opening a bank account for the estate; filing an inventory and appraisal of the assets; mailing notice to creditors and paying all debts owed by the deceased; and filing tax returns.

Once any creditor's claim period passes and all debts and taxes are paid, the next step is distributing the assets to all beneficiaries. The executor notifies the heirs, obtains the court's permission for distributions and files proof all distributions. When this is finalized, the court closes out the estate and relieves the executor from any further duties, says Nolo.

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