Letters Testamentary Without a Will

by Teo Spengler

    Whether a person creates a will or not, her estate must be administered after her death. In either case, the court appoints someone to navigate the estate through probate and gives that person a legal document to prove her status; this document is known as letters testamentary if there is a will, and a letter of administration, if there is not.

    Appointment of Executor

    Many people writing a will specify who they want to be the executor to administer their estate. Generally, courts approve the person named in the will as executor, and if no executor is named, the court appoints one. The probate court issues letters testamentary to the executor to show that he has legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.

    Appointing an Administrator

    When the deceased leaves no will, the court appoints someone to administer the estate, called an administrator. His duties are similar to those of an executor, but the document the court issues in this case is a letter of administration. In the absence of a will, the deceased's property passes to close relatives according to the state's intestate laws.

    About the Author

    Living in France and Northern California, Teo Spengler is an attorney, novelist and writer and has published thousands of articles about travel, gardening, business and law. Spengler holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.

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