Sunday, December 6, 2015

How Many Certified Letters Testamentary Should You Order?

If you have recently been to a Texas probate court and been granted  Letters Testamentary, you will be asked how many certified copies you need.  How should you determine this? 

The first thing that you should do is to make a list of the property that needs to be transferred. Chances are that your attorney already has asked you for this information, probably at your first meeting. However, you may know more about the estate now than you did then.    

Here is how to determine how many copies of Letters Testamentary you need.  If there were bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies or any other assets that had a properly executed beneficiary designation on file, you do not need to show the Letters Testamentary for the transfer of these assets.

  1. Get a certified copy of the Letters Testamentary for each banking institution that you will be visiting or writing to for the purpose of account transfer.  (properly titled joint accounts, POD accounts or TOD accounts will not be include in probate court).  You may need more than one if you are dealing with different departments of the same institution. (say, one for the trust department, one for the general banking). 
  2. How many investment firms will you be contacting? One for each.
  3. How many life insurance policies are payable to the estate?  Get one for each life insurance company you will be dealing with when the life insurance is payable to the deceased person's estate.
  4. One or two copies for yourself to keep with your records. Always a good idea in case an asset shows up later that you did not know about or that you thought could be transferred without the need for the paperwork. You may also need to show the Letters Testamentary to transfer miscellaneous property, small pieces of property or to show your authority to do so.  Don't forget to check the Texas Unclaimed Property website!
  5. One for each piece of real estate that you are transferring or selling. 
  6. Your attorney may want a certified copy for his/her file.
Other documents may be needed!  You may also need to have a certified copy of the Order Admitting the Will to Probate and a certified copy of the Will that was admitted to probate.   Forms that are specific to that bank, insurance company or investment firm may need to be completed as well. To save yourself some time, research in advance what will be required for each transfer. Then you can order the necessary certified documents all at once to prevent trips to the courthouse and save time. 

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