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Letters testamentary are governed by state probate laws, which vary by state. When a court appoints an executor or administrator of a deceased's estate, the administrator or executor will receive a document called “Letters of Testmentary” or “Articles of Administration” which will be issued by the court, outlining the administrator’s or executor’s authority and responsibility. Before money or assets are transferred to the executor or administrator, certified copies of the letters are often required by banks and other financial institutions, the federal government, stock transfer agents or other courts.
The following are Arizona statutes:
6-237. Payment of deposit to foreign personal representative
If the deposit account is with one person and if within sixty days from
the date of death of such depositor, no personal representative of such
decedent, qualified in this state, has delivered a certified copy of
letters testamentary or letters of administration to the bank, the bank may
pay the balance of the account of the deceased depositor to the depositor's
domiciliary personal representative qualified in another state upon the
presentation of letters testamentary or letters of administration certified
by the appointing court.
14-5605. Letter testamentary or of administration not required; statement
to be filed; powers and duties
A. Whenever the gross assets of an estate do not exceed in value twenty
thousand dollars the public fiduciary may act without the issuance of
letters testamentary or of administration by filing with the superior
court a statement of administration showing the name and domicile of the
decedent, the date and place of death and the name, address and
relationship of each known heir or devisee. The filing of this statement
has the same effect as the issuance of formal letters testamentary or of
B. In the event the gross assets of an estate in which the public
fiduciary commences to act pursuant to a statement of administration later
are found to exceed twenty thousand dollars the public fiduciary shall
apply for letters for the estate.
C. In the event the public fiduciary, acting in any estate pursuant to
subsection A of this section, ascertains the names and whereabouts of
persons believed to be heirs or devisees of the estate who are not shown in
the statement of administration, the public fiduciary shall file a
supplemental statement reflecting the new information.
D. On filing the statement of administration, the public fiduciary may:
1. Take possession of, collect, manage and secure the real and personal
property of the decedent.
2. Sell the decedent's real and personal property at private or public
sale, without prior court order, if monies are needed to pay expenses of
administration, funeral expenses or just claims against the estate and pay
these expenses in the order prescribed in section 14-3805.
3. Distribute real or personal property to the estate's personal
representative if one is appointed after the statement of administration is
4. Distribute real and personal property to any successor to the
decedent who presents an affidavit complying with the requirements of
5. Sell or abandon perishable property and other property of the decedent
if necessary to preserve the estate.
6. Pursuant to section 14-5103, for the use and benefit of a minor heir
or devisee who has no guardian, pay the share of an intestate estate or a
devise due him if it does not exceed five thousand dollars.
7. Make necessary funeral arrangements for the decedent and pay
reasonable funeral charges with estate assets.
8. Distribute allowances and exempt property pursuant to chapter 2,
article 4 of this title.
9. Except as otherwise limited by this section, act in accordance with
the powers of a court appointed personal representative as prescribed in
E. No later than twelve months from the filing of the statement of
administration, the public fiduciary shall file with the court an
accounting and a proposed distribution and claim for fees if the estate is
ready to be settled. If the estate is not ready to be settled the
accounting shall contain a statement explaining the delay. The public
fiduciary shall file subsequent accountings and explanations on an annual
basis until the estate is settled.
F. The public fiduciary shall mail a copy of the accounting, the claim
for fees and a proposal for distribution to each person entitled to receive
this information including heirs, devisees, known creditors and other
persons who have demanded notice. Notification shall be by certified mail.
Notice is not required if the public fiduciary cannot reasonably ascertain
necessary names and addresses.
G. A decree settling the account and approving the distribution and claim
for fees may be entered without further notice or proceedings and with the
same effect as in an accounting proceeding unless an objection or claim is
properly filed with the court within thirty days after the public fiduciary
mails an accounting pursuant to subsection F of this section.