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How to obtain a Letter of Testamentary in Texas (step-by-step)

Estates In Texas going through probate require letters of testamentary or letters of administration in order for executors or administrators to carry out their duties..

Letters of testamentary Texas

If you find yourself in the position of probating the will of your loved one, you may be wondering - what assets did they leave behind, and how will I go about accessing them?

While a valid last will can simplify the process, in most cases you will still need to obtain letters testamentary so that the banks, financial institutions, and life insurance companies will release the estates funds to you.

What are Letters of Testamentary in Texas?

Issued by the probate court, letters of testamentary is a document that provides legal authority to the executor granting access to gather assets and distribute them in accordance with a will.

Financial institutions or other entities will often demand to see the letters of testamentary before releasing funds or assets from the deceased’s account.

When are letters of testamentary needed?

If you are an estate executor going through the probate process in Texas, you will most likely need to obtain letters of testamentary.

In most cases, financial institutions or the DMV, will ask you for a letter of testamentary proving your authority to access bank accounts or to transfer vehicle ownership.

This document grants you the authority to gather assets and distribute them on the estate’s behalf, and without it, you often cannot carry out your duties as executor.

In addition, you will need copies when acting on behalf of the estate to provide proof to officials that you are the executor to the estate.

Finally, you should note that letters of testamentary are only applicable to executors of an estate where a valid will has been presented to the court. Administrators of estates with no valid will must use letters of administration.

How to obtain letters testamentary in Texas

Settling an estate can be hard, especially when you are still dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Below, we have highlighted the steps you need to take to obtain letters of testamentary.

Step 1: Gather Important Documents

The probate court usually requires 2 things when submitting the petition to probate in Texas.

You will need:

  1. The original will
  2. A certified copy of the death certificate

When filing the will in court, it's important to know:

- you will be required to prove that the will is the final will.

- 4 year statue of limitations to probate a will in Texas.

Step 2: File an Application for the Probate Hearing

Once you've gathered the appropriate documents, you will then be required to file for probate in the county in which the decedent died.

So if the decedent passed away in Harris county, you must file for probate in the Harris county probate court.

Step 3: Attend the Probate Hearing

Once you've filed for probate, you will then be given the initial probate hearing.

At this hearing, the court reviews all the relevant documents and determines if you truly are the intended executor of the estate.

If granted, the court will then provide you with the issuance of letters testamentary. You, acting as the executor are now legally authorized to begin the estate administration process.

Are financial institutions asking for a letter testamentary?

We can help. With decades of experience in Texas estate administration - we have the expertise and resources necessary to help you throughout the entire estate administration process.

How much do Letters of Testamentary cost in Texas?

Obtaining letters testamentary in Texas can come with varying costs, depending on the county in which you are filing. For instance, if you're in Harris County, be prepared to pay a fee of $360 for probating a will, while in Anderson County, the cost is lower at $309.50. To ensure you're aware of the specific cost for your county, it's a good idea to check the court's website or give them a call.

What is the difference between Letters of Testamentary and Letters of Administration in Texas?

Letters of testamentary are only granted to an estate executor by the probate court if they are the named executor in a valid will. On the other hand, letters of administration are used for estate settlement by an administrator appointed by the probate court when there is no valid will, ie. when the deceased is said to have died intestate.

Essentially, both documents grant the same powers to the holder when administering the estate. However, the critical difference for letters of administration is that the court is in charge of ruling on who the official heirs to the estate are. On the other hand, an estate executor holding letters of testamentary can distribute assets based on the will.

How long does it take to get letters of testamentary in Texas?

Depending on the county's probate court's capacity, you can be issued letters of testamentary within 30 days of filing for probate.

However, disputes of the will and discrepancies in the will/other documents can cause delays up to 4 months to 1 year.

If you need help settling an estate in Texas, our team can assist you. We have the experience and knowledge to help with every step of the process, from obtaining letters of testamentary to filing probate. Contact us today for more information or to get started on your estate settlement plan.


Do Letters of Testamentary expire in Texas?

Letters Testamentary do not come with an official expiration date. However, institutions and officials may require that the document be dated within the last 60 days before transferring any assets. This ensures that the court, in the meantime, has not removed the executor.

Do I need a lawyer to get a letter of testamentary?

In Texas, it is a legal requirement that the executor of an estate be represented by an attorney. The Texas Probate Court mandates that only a licensed attorney can represent another person or entity in a judicial proceeding in the state.

This includes applications for letters testamentary, letters of administration, determinations of heirship, and guardianship of the person or estate.

If the applicant is not a licensed attorney, the court will not allow the filing of an application to probate a will as this would be considered the unauthorized practice of law.

Although an individual does not need to be a lawyer to serve as a guardian or an executor or administrator of an estate, it is necessary to retain the services of a counsel to represent the third-party interests of the ward, beneficiaries, or creditors.

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