Intro to Probate: Powers and Duties of a Personal Representative

By Aurthur Fowler - 11/29/2015

Once the estate is open, the probate court issues either Letters Testamentary (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if there is not a Will). A court can also issue Letters Testamentary, C.T.A. The abbreviation C.T.A. is short for cum testamentio annexio, which translates to with Will attached. Letters Testamentary, C.T.A. is issued when someone other than the individual identified in the Will is serving as personal representative.The Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration authorize and empower the personal representative to take possession and control of all of the decedent’s assets that become part of the estate, to collect all debts, to pay all just demands and debts owed, to settle the business of the estate according to law, and to perform all duties the personal representative is required to do by law. Letters Testamentary and Letters of Administration impose a fiduciary duty upon the personal representative to act in the best interest of the estate and deal with the estate and each beneficiary or heir in good faith. A personal representative is required to exercise the same degree of diligence and caution that reasonably prudent business persons would employ in the management of affairs. Mason v. Pearson, 668 S.W.2d 656, 663 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1984). The law favors the prompt administration of estates by marshalling, collecting, and disbursing the estate’s assets within a timely manner and close the estate as quickly as possible. Campbell v. Miller, 562 S.W.2d 827, 832 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1977). If the personal representative is also an heir or beneficiary, the personal representative has to be careful not to place personal interest ahead of the estate’s interest.