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: When to Use Formal Probate


Filing Formal Probate


Filing Formal Probate

In general, probate can be divided into two types of procedures - “informal” and “formal.” The process for each can be similar, but formal probate requires the involvement of a judge and one or more hearings in court. Formal probate also requires more advance notice to “interested persons.” An “interested person” is any person or entity with a legal interest in the estate, such as a spouse, children, beneficiaries named in a Will, heirs, a personal representative nominated in a Will, and creditors.

When would formal probate procedures be necessary?

Formal probate may be required due to many situations. There may be a question as to whether the decedent had a valid Will at the time of death or whether she died intestate (without a Will). Formal testacy proceedings permit beneficiaries to establish whether a particular document is the decedent's Will. Formal procedures also allow heirs to es­tablish that there was no Will. Another situation that might require formal procedures would occur when there is more than one Will and there is a question concerning which Will controls. There may also be a need for formal procedures due to a dispute as to who should serve as the personal representative of the estate. Or, if more than 3 years have passed since the death, formal procedures must be used, and only under limited circumstances.

Supervised Administration

Finally, formal procedures are used for “supervised administration.” This is a process in which the court is involved at each stage. Distributions from the estate are not permitted without a court order. The estate must be closed with a court order that reviews the estate administra­tion and approves the final settlement. If restrictions are imposed upon the personal representative, they will appear on the Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, which is the name for a court order that appoints a person as the personal representative.

The next section reviews the actual form that is used to start a formal probate case.

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