WHAT ARE “LETTERS TESTAMENTARY?”

Letters testamentary (aka "letters of administration" or "letters of representation") refers to the official document issued by the relevant probate court authorizing the administrator (“executor” if there is a will, or “personal representative” if no will), to take control of a deceased person's estate.

WHY NOT TO USE ONLINE LEGAL SERVICES

1) Actual Legal Knowledge

What kind of power of appointment should you include? Should you include provisions for an administrative trust, or a trust protector? What about a resulting common trust for your children? Which marital funding option should you use upon the death of the first spouse? How should you balance the desire for asset protection for the surviving spouse, with a step-up in basis for the trust assets? Should you name your trust as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy? These are questions that generally cannot (and should not) be answered by laypeople, but are integral to the trust drafting process.

BABY BOOMERS AND THE LOOMING ISSUE OF INCAPACITY

As of 2010, 13.1% of the population was over 65 (A Profile Of Older Americans: 2011).  Baby Boomers will have all passed the age of 65 by 2030, which by some estimates means that one-fifth or 20% of the population will be over 65.  Couple that with the fact that life expectancies are at an all-time high, America is looking at a new demographic make-up with a disproportionate (compared to historical numbers) amount of elderly citizens.

HEATH LEDGER AND THE MISSING HEIR – PRETERMITTED HEIRS

Heath Ledger died, unmarried, at the age of 28.  At the time, he had a two-year old daughter, Matilda Rose, and a will.  The will, drafted before Matilda’s birth, did not mention her.  So she gets nothing, right? Not necessarily. While the heirs of Ledger’s estate (his sister and parents) ultimately came to a private settlement regarding Matilda’s share of his estimated $20 million estate, depending on what state (or country) laws would have been applied, Matilda may actually have been entitled to his entire estate.

INTESTATE SUCCESSION – DYING WITHOUT A WILL

What happens when someone dies without a will (called, “dying intestate”)? Who gets what?

In California, when someone dies without a will, or with a will that does not dispose of all of his or her property, the laws of intestate succession determine who the decedent’s heirs are, and how much they will get of the estate.