letters testamentary

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Letters testamentary are documents that a probate court delivers to the executor of the deceased’s estate to enforce the terms of the deceased person’s will. A court can issue letters testamentary only to persons who are chosen as an executor in a will. In New York, a person seeking to receive letters testamentary generally must prove one’s eligibility, as governed by the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act. A professional corporation is not eligible to act as an executor of a will, even when a corporation has a single owner or a shareholder where that person has not acted individually but as a corporation.

A person who is named as an executor or is qualified to act as one may not be issued letters testamentary only when that person refuses to do so.  In Pennsylvania, the person named as an executor is entitled to letters testamentary regardless of whether one has declined a trust under a will.  

A probate court has the discretion to revoke letters testamentary that have been issued illegally or in a wrong jurisdiction.  

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]