What are Letters Testamentary and Letters of Administration?

What are Letters Testamentary?


When a loved one passes away, an estate must usually be raised for the deceased person. An estate stands in place of the deceased so that the legal and financial affairs can be administered after death.


Letters Testamentary is the authorizing document issued by the Register of Wills appointing a representative. This representative is called the executor/ executrix. Letters Testamentary allows the estate representative to gather all of the deceased’s assets such as personal property, bank accounts and other assets to pay liabilities and make inheritance distribution.


Letters Testamentary are only issued when the deceased person left a will deciding who will handle the estate.



What are Letters of Administration?


If the deceased died without a will, then a different legal process is involved. A petition must be filed with the Register of Wills requesting issuance of Letters of Administration. Since there is no will naming the deceased’s representative, all of the heirs to the estate must sign a document called a “renunciation” deferring to a representative called an Administrator/ Administratrix.


If any heirs refused to sign a renunciation, then a petition must be filed citing the uncooperative persons.


What happens if the deceased’s heirs cannot agree with the surviving co-owner on what should be done with the property?


Without issuance of Letters, the legal and financial affairs cannot be settled for the deceased. Real estate, including a family, home cannot be sold or retitled, bank accounts cannot be accessed, and creditors will not speak with the heirs. If the heirs delay in obtaining Letters, penalties can be assessed against the estate for failing to pay the inheritance taxes on time.


As a probate law firm for estate executors, we help settle estates efficiently and reduce stress. If you know someone faced with a probate process or roadblocks to an estate property sale, please have them contact us for a free evaluation at:


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If you are not quite ready for a consultation, download our probate handbook HERE. We’ll send you helpful probate guides and resources so you know how to handle the estate.