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It is not necessary to write a letter of probate to act as a personal representative or the personal administrator for the estate of someone who has died. A letter of probate is a legal document issued by a probate court that gives a person the authority to control and distribute the assets of the person who died. A person who was appointed by the deceased in a will to be the personal administrator, or a person wishing to serve as the personal representative of the estate if there is no will, uses a form application to request that the probate court issue the type of probate letter that allows her to do so.
Someone who was named in a will to handle a deceased’s estate is referred to as a personal administrator or “executor.” She applies to the probate court for the authorization to control the assets of the estate and disburse them under the terms of the will. The court then issues her a letter of probate called “letters testamentary” as proof of her legal authority.
When the deceased died without a will, the person appointed by the court upon receiving her application is called a personal representative. She receives a letter of probate called “letters of administration” from the court. Both personal administrators and personal representatives act as officers of the probate court.
In the US, the applications for letters testamentary and letters of administration are available at local county clerks’ offices or from clerks of circuit courts. Many counties have the forms available on the Internet. There are generally filing fees associated with the application. Applicants may also be required to post a bond. In some cases, the court may be able to waive the bond upon request.
The applications for letters of probate require private information about the deceased and any documentation of the death. The applicant will also need to provide the names of any “heirs,” the closest relatives related by blood, and their names and addresses. Any person specified to receive anything under the will should also be listed with their names and addresses. A personal representative should include any information regarding the wish of the deceased that she serve in this capacity, or reasons why she is qualified to do so.
As part of her duties, an executor or personal representative may have to pay the debts of the estate before making any disbursements. In complicated or larger estates, she may want to consult an attorney. Reasonable costs and expenses may be taken from the estate for its administration.
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