The Basics of Probate
"Probate" is used to describe the legal process by which a deceased person’s affairs are settled and his property distributed to those who are entitled to receive it. This Classroom covers the basic issues involved in probate including the role of a personal representative, the special protections for family members, a review of the intestacy rules, which describe how an estate should be divided when there is no Will and the options to consider when deciding whether "to probate or not to probate." The second section discusses the actual probate process, from filing the probate petition to completing the work as the personal representative.
The Probate Process: Starting an Informal Probate Case
Basics of Probate
Basics of Probate
Starting the Case
In this section we’re going to walk you thru the various steps in an informal probate. Before going any further, it should be mentioned that the Alaska Court system’s website has a great deal of information regarding the probate process and an excellent “Self-Help Probate” section. We encourage you to check out the material on the court system’s website:
The Probate Petition
In order to start an informal probate case, a request must be filed with the court system (also called the petition or application). Depending upon whether the deceased left a Will or not, the court form that you’ll use is either:
Request to Start Informal Probate and Appoint a Personal Representative When There Is a Will (Form P-315);
Request to Start Informal Probate and Appoint a Personal Representative When There Is No Will(Form P-325).
The forms are very similar. Each lays out the basic facts of the situation, such as the name of the decedent, the time and place of death, the names of the deceased’s surviving family members, whether there was a Will or not, plus some other information.
The fee for filing a probate petition is $200, which can be waived by the court if you meet certain income guidelines. You’ll need to fill out a request and submit it to the court along with your petition.
Exemption from the Payment of Fees
Additional Forms You Need to Include
Statement to Start Probate
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
Statement Starting Informal Probate and Appointing a Personal Representative When There is a Will (Form P-316);
Statement Starting Informal Probate and Appointing a Personal Representative When There is No Will (Form P-326).
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.
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 Testamentary are issued to a personal representative that was named in a Will.
Letters of Administrationare issued to a personal representative when the decedent did not have a Will.
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.
Consent to Appointment as Personal Representative
It should also be mentioned that if there are other persons with an equal or greater right to be appointed as PR of the estate, you will need to obtain their consent to your appointment and submit it to the court. To obtain consent, have that person or persons complete the form,
Nomination for Appointment of Personal Representative with Lower Priority, P-306
Waiver of Bond Requirement
Remember, Alaska law requires that the PR post bond unless the Will expressly states it is unnecessary or all the beneficiaries agree bond isn’t necessary. If you want the beneficiaries to agree bond isn’t necessary, have them sign the form:
Waiver of Bond Requirement, P-334
After Filing the Petition
If you are appointed the Personal Representative, the court will send you the Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration) once it is signed by the clerk or magistrate. This is the document that you will use to prove that you are authorized to act on behalf of the estate.