“Letters of Trusteeship” is a court document giving the nominated trustee of a trust created under a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) the power to act. Such a trust is called a testamentary trust because it is created in a Will. When a Will is submitted to the Surrogate Court for probate, via the filing of a Petition for Probate, the court issues “Letters Testamentary.” Letters Testamentary gives the executor authority and Letters of Trusteeship give the trustee authority. The executor has a duty to carry out the administration of the estate, as directed in the will. The trustee of a testamentary must carry out the duties under the testamentary trust. Sometimes the executor and trustee are the same person, but not always.
If there is a testamentary trust contained in the will, the nominated executor must request Letters of Trusteeship. A testamentary trustee is a person to whom Letters of Trusteeship issue. If there are no objections, the Surrogate Court will issue both Letters Testamentary and Letters of Trusteeship at the same time. At this point the trustee can fund the trust. Funding a trust simply means retitling assets in the name of the trust.
The trustee to whom the Letters of Trusteeship issue has a responsibility to carry out the wishes of the testator and terms of the trust . The trustee will need Letters of Trusteeship to handle the affairs of the trust, such as opening the bank or brokerage accounts. It is important to note that the Surrogate’s Court only issues Letters of Trusteeship for testamentary trusts. There is no need for Letters of Trusteeship from the Surrogate’s Court if the deceased left an Irrevocable or Revocable Trust.
Review Your Will With an Experienced Attorney
To save time, it is advisable to request Letters of Trusteeship when filing the probate petition or after Letters Testamentary are issued. If the Letters of Trusteeship are not requested until after the conclusion of the probate proceeding, then a separate proceeding must be commenced. This could lead to additional delay and expense for the estate and trust. If you are unsure if there is a testamentary trust in your Will, have an experienced estate planning attorney review your Will.