When someone writes a will in Washington, they must name an executor or, rather, someone who will manage and distribute their assets according to their terms. When the testator (the person who created the will) dies, the executor can only start the probate proceedings after obtaining a document known as a “letter of testamentary” from the court.
Letter of testamentary defined
A letter of testamentary is a court order that confirms the executor has legal authority over the deceased’s estate. They need it, along with the deceased death certificate, to open an estate bank account, receive estate income, sell estate assets, close the decedent’s personal bank accounts and represent the estate in legal disputes.
How to obtain a letter of testamentary
The first step in obtaining a letter of testamentary is to file for probate in Washington’s court system. The executor must provide the testator’s original will, a copy of their death certificate and a probate petition form. The court will then issue summons to all beneficiaries and interested parties to appear in court for probate proceedings. During this time, the executor must prove that the deceased’s will is valid under Washington’s laws and contains no errors or discrepancies.
After considering all views, the judge will determine whether to accept the testator’s will for probate. If they rule in favor of the will and executor, they will grant the letter of testamentary, and the estate administration process will start. Getting this letter takes six to nine months and costs a minimum of $350, that is if the executor foregoes a lawyer, accountant, and any other person or entity needed in this process.
When the court denies a letter of testamentary
If the judge rules against granting a letter of testamentary, the state will distribute the testator’s assets according to Washington’s intestate succession laws. The court will appoint an administrator, who will petition for letters of administration to authorize their fiduciary duties.
Letters of testamentary are a crucial document for the executor to manage and distribute the deceased’s estate. Knowing what to expect before filing for probate makes the process smoother and less stressful, so ensure you have all your paperwork ready before starting the process.