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Letters Testamentary

What is a Letter Testamentary?

A letters testamentary are brief, one page document issued by the county clerk which simply states that the person identified in the letter is currently serving in the capacity of independent executor or independent executrix of an estate which is being probated under the docket number and court also identified in the letter.  In Harris County the county clerk may actually issue letters testamentary to the independent executor or independent executrix on the same day of the court hearing (but it will require a second trip to the court house late in the afternoon to pick up the letters). But most individuals choose the mailing option, and the letters testamentary will be delivered to their home within one or two days after the court hearing.

All letters show the date they were issued and they are valid for 60 days from that date. For a modest charge (about $2.00 per letter in Harris County), additional letters may be acquired at any time during the probate administration.

How do I obtain a Letter Testamentary?

To obtain a letter testamentary for probate matters the person identified in a deceased personís will as the independent executor or independent executrix must follow the statutory procedures to probate a will, generally in the county where the deceased person resided.

Who commonly requires a Letter Testamentary?

Banks, financial institutions, brokerage companies, stock transfer agents, title companies, and governments often require letters testamentary before they will communicate or conduct business (for example, withdraw funds or transfer publicly traded securities) with a representative of a deceased person.  In the case of private businesses, if they mistakenly transfer the assets of a deceased person to the wrong individual, they may be liable for their error and have to pay "twice."  So they are understandably very cautious, and therefore require an official court document before they will transfer a deceased personís assets to anyone.

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