Letter of testamentary California (processes + sample)

This post covers everything you need to know about the Letter of testamentary California.

Here you will learn

What is a Letter of testamentary California

How do I get a letter of testamentary in California?

How long do you have to file probate after death in California?

How much do letters of testamentary cost in California?

etc.

Let’s dive right in

What is a Letter of testamentary California

A letter of testamentary in California is a legal document issued by the superior court in a county once the correct petition is filed and approved for the purpose of appointing an Executor of the estates of a person who dies testate (leaving a Will).

Through a letter of testamentary, the court appoints a person, usually, an executor named in the will, as a personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenditures, and then distribute the remaining estate to the beneficiaries (those who have the legal right to inherit), all while under the supervision of the court.

In California, the letter of testamentary is applicable only to the decedent estates that exceed $166,250.

NB: ‘Letters of testamentary’  is  not the same as regular letters. In legal parlance, the term “letters” refers to “mandate, authority, and command.”

People get confused because they’ll go to a bank and the bank will say, “Well, you need Letters,” and then they’ll call a lawyer and say, “Can you write me a letter, I need a letter,” but it’s not the type of letter, it’s not a written letter, this is something that comes from the court, and Letters are the authorization document that gives the personal representative the right to go out and deal with the decadent’s assets.

When is probate required in California?

In California, probate is required when the decedent died testate and his/her estates exceed 1$66,250.  If the deceased person owned assets in joint tenancy with someone else, as survivorship community property with his or her spouse, or in a living trust, those assets won’t need to go through probate.

How do I get a letter of testamentary in California?

In order to get a letter of testamentary in California, you must lodge a formal application (Petition) to the superior court in the county where the decedent lived through form DE-111. On that form, you must indicate that you petition for probate of will and letters testamentary and annex the will.

After your probate case is filed but before hearing, You must give notice of the hearing to anyone who may have the right to get some part of the estate, plus the surviving family members even if there is a will and they are not named in it.

If everything is ok, the Judge will proceed to hear the case and grant a letter of testamentary

How long do you have to file probate after death in California?

According to the California Probate Code, you have to file probate within 30 days after the decedent’s death. You may have unknowingly waived your right to be the executor if you do not file probate within that timeframe.

How much do letters of testamentary cost in California?

The uniform filing fee for the first petition for letters testamentary in California costs $435.

If you hire an attorney, the compensation of the attorney for the Personal representative will be calculated per California Probate Code § § 10810, 10811 as follows

  1. 4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
  2. 3% of the next $100,000
  3. 2% of the next $800,000
  4. 1% of the next $9 million
  5. 0.5% of the next $15 million
  6. A reasonable amount (determined by the court) for any amounts higher than $25 million

The same rate is applied to calculate the compensation of the Executor.

 How long does it take to get a Letter of testamentary in California?

It may take 9 months to 1 ½ years to get a Letter of testamentary in California. This time frame can be extended significantly if there is a Court backlog, a will is being challenged or other litigation is pending.

Below is the snapshot of the timeline to get a letter of testamentary in California according to B&Y attorneys

How long does it take to get a Letter of testamentary in California, letter of testamentary timeline in California

Letter of testamentary California sample

In California, the letter of testamentary is provided as a form, Form DE 150.

The following is an image sample of the filed letters of testamentary in California

Letter of testamentary California sample
Image credit calestateplanning

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Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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