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.

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New York Estate Law When the Executor Dies
 

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What Happens After an Estate Has Been Probated?

Whether a person dies with our without a will, in most cases, his estate must go through the probate process. Although state probate laws vary, the probate process is fairly uniform throughout the United States. It is generally a court-supervised process for gathering the assets of the deceased, paying his creditors and taxes and then distributing his remaining assets to his beneficiaries if there is a will -- or to his heirs, according to the state's laws of intestate succession, if there is no will. During the probate process, real property owned by the deceased is retitled to his beneficiaries or heirs. To open probate and begin the process, an interested party, typically a beneficiary or heir, must file a petition with the state court that handles probate.

What to Do With a Will After a Death

Wills provide written documentation of the will maker's -- also called testator -- final wishes. Upon the death of the testator, the will undergoes a formal legal process known as probate. Probate helps determine the validity of the will and oversees the process of carrying out its directives. The person responsible for taking the will through probate is called an executor.

Probate Laws for Dying Without a Will in Minnesota

Even when people don’t write a will that dictates how they want their assets distributed when they die, most do leave some property that requires legal transfer to their heirs. Probate is necessary to effect the transfers. This is easiest when there is a will, but the process is similar in Minnesota when a decedent dies intestate, or without a will. The major difference is that without a will, the state distributes the decedent's property according to law and under the terms of its Uniform Probate Code.

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