What are Letters Testamentary and Letters of Administration?

When the superior court approves the petition of a person who wishes to become personal representative of a decedent’s estate, the court orders the clerk of the superior court to issue “letters” in the petitioner’s name.  The letters are a one page form, executed by the clerk, noting the appointment of the person named on the letters as the personal representative of the decedent.

When the petitioner is nominated as personal representative in the Will of a decedent, the clerk issues Letters Testamentary.  When a person other than persons nominated in the decedent’s Will, or if the decedent had no Will, the clerk issues Letters of Administration.  If the decedent’s Will nominated personal representatives, but none among them consents to serve, another person may petition and be issued Letters of Administration with Will Annexed.  RCW 11.28.010, 11.28.131.  Letters may be issued even after a probate has been previously closed.  RCW 11.76.250.