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How To Probate A Will - What Is The Process



Typically, three steps are taken to probate a will upon a decedent's death. Here is the process:

Step 1: Personal Representative Appointment and Admission of Will

The first step in probating a will is initiated by the party seeking to be appointed as the estate's personal representative. The process begins with that party completing an application. If no decedent family member files an application within 45 days of decedent's death, then creditors can file an application.

  • Informal Estate Administration - If estate documents are complete and properly filed, the probate registrar appoints the applicant as personal representative. The registrar admits the original will and issues letters allowing the personal representative to commence administration of the estate. The process is informal, as it is handled without requirement of court intervention.
  • Formal Estate Administration - If issues arise about the person desiring to be appointed personal representative or the priority of selection between candidates, if there is a problem obtaining an original of the will, or if the will's validity is questioned, then estate administration begins a formal process. A formal probate process requires a court hearing for addressing issues. At the close of hearing, the personal representative is allowed to proceed with informal estate administration without further hearings.

Step 2: Estate Administration (Under Informal and Formal Processes)

The second step begins when the personal representative is appointed. The personal representative is assigned the exact same duties, responsibilities and powers, regardless of whether her appointment was carried out in an informal or formal process. Representative duties typically include:

  • Settlement and distribution of the estate and assets expeditiously for the best interests of heirs;
  • Administration of estate property without court direction;
  • Seeking judicial resolution of estate administration issues when required;
  • Keeping parties updated on estate administration progress;
  • Assuming control or possession of estate property;
  • Payment of all debts and taxes under the controlling jurisdiction's priority of claims; and
  • Distributing estate property that remains to parties designated for same under the will or state law.

Step 3: Estate Closure

If the personal representative has no difficulties in ascertaining the entitlement to estate property, he may close the estate informally at the end of performing his estate responsibilities. The personal representative prepares a written statement of closing to heirs, claimants and parties affected by estate distribution. The statement must include a list of estate debts and unpaid claims.

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