Formal Probate

The probate process in Alaska can be a relatively simple and methodical process, but there are times when an estate is complicated and will need to go through what is called a “formal” probate process in court. This Classroom gives and overview of the formal probate process and when it is needed, provides step by step guidelines for completing a formal probate petition, and provides information on additional forms that need to be filed for formal probate. Once a Personal Representative is appointed, the remainder of the probate process, whether formal or informal, follows the same steps. Those procedures can be found in the Basics of Probate Classroom, under "Procedures Following Appointment as Personal Rep."

The Formal Probate Process: Additional Forms to File in Formal Probate


Filing Formal Probate


Filing Formal Probate

Court’s Order to Start Formal Probate and Appoint a Personal Representative

In addition to the Petition, there are a few more forms that you’ll also need to file with the court to begin the case. Depending upon whether the deceased left a Will or not, one form is called the

Court’s Order to Start Formal Probate and Appoint a Personal Representative When There is a Will (Form P-321);


Court’s Order to Start Formal Probate and Appoint a Personal Representative When There is No Will (Order Adjudicating Intestacy, Determining Heirs, and Appointing a Personal Representative in a Formal Proceeding) (Form P-331)

This form will be signed by the judge, not by you, but you should fill in whatever information you can beforehand. You should be able to fill in items such as the case name and number, date of death, the deceased’s survivors, and other uncontested facts. If the judge needs to make some decisions, you can leave those sections of the form blank. 

Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration)

The other form that you will need to file is called the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. These are court orders stating that you are authorized to act on behalf of the estate. You need to pick one, depending upon the situation. Letters Testamentaryare issued to a personal representative that was named in a Will;  the form is called

Acceptance of Duties by Personal Representative and Letters Testamentary by Court(Form P-335);

Letters of Administration are issued to a personal representative when the decedent did not have a Will; that form is

Acceptance of Duties and Letters of Administration(Form P-336);

You need to sign the section of the form stating that you accept the duties of the personal representative on page 1. The judge will then sign page 2 of the form.

The First Hearing

Once you’ve filed the petition and the other forms, the court will schedule a hearing on the matter. It is your responsibility to send a copy of the hearing notice to every “interested party” you listed in your petition.  After the hearing, the court will issue an order. If you are appointed the Personal Representative, the court will send you the forms once they are signed by the judge. The Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration) is the document that you will use to prove that you are authorized to act on behalf of the estate.

Whether you are pursuing formal or informal probate procedures, the rest of the probate process is very similar. It includes notifying creditors, preparing an inventory of the estate, paying bills and distributing the remaining assets, and preparing a final accounting that describes how the property was distributed.  We discuss these aspects of the probate process in a separate Classroom called The Basics of Probate. It’s a good idea to review all of the information there, or you can pick up what happens following your appointment as Personal Representative in the second segment, of that Classroom, The Probate Process, Procedures Following Appointment as Personal Rep.

Last Review and Update: May 21, 2019
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