If all goes as planned, the initial court hearing will conclude with the probate court issuing letters testamentary and the personal representative taking the oath. The personal representative will typically prepare and bring these orders with them to court for the probate judge and personal representative to sign.
Letters testamentary (or letters of administration if there is no will) give the personal representative the legal authority to administer the decedent’s probate estate. The letters are a legal document.
The letters provide proof of appointment and qualification of the personal representative of an estate and the date of qualification. They serve as proof of the personal representatives power to act for the estate. For example, most banks and financial institutions require a copy of the letters before giving the personal representative information or access to the decedent’s accounts.
The letters are officially issued by the probate clerk. The probate clerk will charge a small fee for preparing these forms. The personal representative will want to pay for 2-5 letters, as some banks and other institutions will expect an original rather than a copy.
After the court’s issuance of the letters, the personal representative still has to take the oath of office and post bond (unless the decedent’s will waives the requirement for a bond). We have previously addressed the probate bond (here is the link to information on probate bonds).
The oath is sworn to in court and recorded on a document that reads something like this:
I, ________________, do solemnly swear that the writing which has been offered for probate is the last Will of __________________, so far as I know or believe, and that I will well and truly perform all the duties as Independent Executor of the will and of the Estate of ___________, Deceased.
The exact language varies from one court to the next. The oath can also be taken later or in a separate proceeding.
This concludes the initial court hearing for typical probate matters. But there are some atypical situations that can vary this process. Some of these atypical situations come up enough that they warrant coverage here. Where the decedent is missing, as in the case of a missing person, is an example. Let’s consider that topic next. Click here to continue reading. >>>>
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