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Author: Brenton McWilliams

What are Letters Testamentary?

Letters testamentary are the documentary evidence of an individual’s appointment as the executor of an estate. They are issued by Alabama probate courts following appointment of an executor.

What to Does the Executor Do with Letters Testamentary?

Letters testamentary can be produced anytime proof is needed to show that an individual is the executor of the estate. Letters testamentary are typically used to request a release of assets belonging to the estate. For example, if a bank account does not have a survivorship provision or death beneficiaries, subject to a few exceptions, the bank will require someone to produce letters testamentary before they will release the funds in the account. When the funds in the account are released based on the production of the letters testamentary, the funds are released to the executor as a fiduciary for the estate.

How to get Letters Testamentary in Alabama?

To get letters testamentary in Alabama, an estate must be opened in probate court and an executor must be appointed for the estate. If there is already an estate proceeding in another state, it may be possible to have letters testamentary issue from an Alabama probate court, if necessary, through an ancillary estate.

Do Letters Testamentary Expire?

In Alabama letters testamentary generally do not expire on their own. The letters testamentary would no longer be effective after the settlement of the estate. In Alabama, there is a presumption that an estate is settled when 20 years have passed from the grant of letters testamentary. In a way, if the estate has not already been settled, letters testamentary would expire after 20 years since the estate is presumed settled by the passage of time. The letters testamentary may be revoked or rescinded by action of the probate court. It might be possible for a probate court to provide an expiration date on the letters testamentary, but I haven’t seen a probate court do this before.

Sometimes, banks or others holding assets of the estate will request an up to date copy of letters testamentary. This is usually their way of making sure that letters testamentary are still valid. If current letters testamentary are requested, probate courts in Alabama usually do not mind issuing a new set of letters testamentary with a current date or otherwise certifying that the letters testamentary are still valid.

If you have questions about estate administration in Alabama including an ancillary estate, please call me at (251) 215-9275 or write me on the contact page to schedule an appointment to discuss how I can help.