Informal Probate Laws

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What is Informal Probate?

Informal probate is a procedure for the distribution of a person’s property after they have become deceased.  There are no federal laws governing the probate process; instead, probate laws are created and enforced by each individual state.  The informal probate process involves much less court intervention than other probate procedures, such as formal or supervised probate.

In an informal probate process, the court appoints an executor or supervisor who will manage the distribution of the deceased person’s estate.  This person is usually named in the testator’s will, but may also be selected by the court if necessary. 

The executor can then distribute the estate property and assets directly, without the need to seek court approval first.  They should, however, be following the requirements and terms as set out in the person’s will.  Also, informal probate may or may not be available in every state, and the laws may be different depending on whether there is a valid will in place.  The process is sometimes called “Informal Probate of Will”.

Is Informal Probate a Preferable Process?

This depends on the circumstances surrounding the person’s estate.  If the person’s will is clearly written, without leaving much room for will contests or disputes, then an informal probate process may be preferable.  Less court intervention can often make the process run more quickly and efficiently.

On the other hand, if there are any questions or disputes with regards to any provisions in the will, it may be preferable to employ a different type of probate process, such as formal or supervised probate.  That way, the court can intervene and provide guidance if there are ambiguities in the will.

Are There Any Requirements for Informal Probate of a Will?

Generally speaking, the interested parties must file an application through the court requesting that the estate be assigned to an informal probate proceeding.  The parties may need to provide various forms of information including:

Also, there may be different timelines and deadlines associated with filing for informal probate.  If too much time passes between the person’s death and the filing, the estate may simply pass through standard state probate procedures, and the option for informal probate may no longer be available.  Specific deadlines may vary by state.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Informal Probate?

Generally speaking, a party that is requesting for informal probate should work closely with a lawyer for assistance and representation.  The legal expertise of a lawyer is usually necessary when it comes to matters like filing, filling out forms, appointing an executor, and distributing the property.  Also, an experienced lawyer can provide assistance in the event that there is a dispute or contest over the will or the estate property. 

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Last Modified: 10-16-2012 11:17 AM PDT

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