Obtaining a Letter of Testamentary

What Is A Letter Of Testamentary?

Although those who have been named as an estate’s executor have a number of important duties, one of the most significant involves gathering the decedent’s assets and transferring them to the named beneficiaries through the probate process. However, these proceedings can only be initiated after an executor has obtained a document known as a letter of testamentary, which gives an estate’s representative the legal authority to administer the deceased’s estate.

Failing to take this step can leave an estate and its beneficiaries vulnerable to a will contest, so if you were named as an executor of a loved one’s estate, it is important to speak with an experienced contested estates attorney who can help you obtain the proper documentation to start probate proceedings.

Petitioning the Court

In Illinois, executors who are tasked with administering an estate must begin the process by petitioning the probate court in the county where the decedent resided for a letter of testamentary, or a letter of administration. The application process usually requires the executor to provide a copy of the decedent’s death certificate, as well as:

  • The approximate value of the estate in question;
  • The name and contact information of the testator’s heirs; and
  • A sworn statement that the applicant was named as the executor of the decedent’s will.

Once the petition is submitted, the probate court will hold a hearing to verify that the executor is a mentally competent adult who has not been convicted of any felony crimes. If the petition is approved, the court will issue a letter of administration and officially open probate.

What is a Letter of Administration?

Once granted, letters testamentary allow executors to collect any of a decedent’s assets that are being held by another person or a bank. The executor can then move on to carrying out other duties, including appraising and inventorying assets, paying off debts, and transferring property to named beneficiaries. If a person passes away without a will, one of his or her heirs will still need to petition the probate court for letters of administration.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that it will probably be necessary to give certified copies of the letters of administration to any banks or individuals who hold a decedent’s assets in their possession. In fact, it may still be necessary to provide a copy of the decedent’s death certificate when banking, distributing assets or engaging in real estate transactions on the estate’s behalf.

Contact Our Office Today

If you want to learn more about the best ways to prevent your will from being contested, or if you were named an executor of someone else’s estate and have questions about petitioning the court for letters testamentary, please contact dedicated Illinois contested estates lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by calling 847-325-5559 today.

You can also reach us by submitting one of our Quick Contact forms, which only requires your name, phone number, email address, and a brief description of your case or legal matter.

Updated 7-8-2021

Updated as of July 2019
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