Informal probate, or “informal probate of a will”, is another type of procedure used to determine the distribution of a person’s property after they have become deceased.

Unlike formal probate proceedings, there are no federal laws governing the informal probate process. Instead, the informal probate process involves laws that are created and enforced individually by each state.

The informal probate process also does not have as much court intervention, as compared to the other probate procedures, such as formal or supervised probate.

During the informal probate process, the probate court appoints an executor or supervisor who will be responsible for managing and distributing the deceased individual’s estate. While the executor is usually named in the testator’s will, they may also be selected by the court if no one was named or for other necessary reasons.

The executor will then be allowed to distribute the estate property and assets directly to the entitled beneficiaries, without having to seek court approval first. An executor should, however, follow the requirements and terms set out in the deceased person’s will.

Additionally, it is important to note that informal probate procedures may not be available in every state, and if they are, the laws can vary widely depending on whether there is a valid will in place or not.

Is the Process for Informal Probate Preferred Over Formal Probate?

The preference for choosing informal versus formal probate will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the testator’s estate.

For example, if the person’s will was created using clear language (e.g., meaning there is little to no room for will contests or disputes), then an informal probate process may be more preferable. This is due to the fact that having less court intervention can often make the process move more quickly and efficiently. It is also usually less costly than having to go to court.

On the other hand, if there are any questions or disputes regarding the provisions made in the will, then it might be preferable to choose a different type of probate process, such as formal or supervised probate. During these types of probate procedures, the court will be able to intervene and can provide guidance if there are any ambiguities in the will that are causing disputes among the parties involved.

Are There Any Requirements for Informal Probate of a Will?

There are some general requirements for the informal probate process. First, the interested parties must file an application with the probate court requesting that the estate be assigned to an informal probate proceeding.

Next, the parties may also need to provide various sources of information, such as:

  • Proof of whether or not the decedent had a will, and if so, the original will (or in certain circumstances a copy of it);
  • A verified copy of the person’s death certificate;
  • A list of the potential recipients of the estate property (i.e., beneficiaries), heirs, and any other interested parties; and
  • A catalog of the deceased individual’s estate property, assets, and any outstanding debts.

In addition, there may also be different timelines and deadlines associated with filing a request for informal probate. For instance, if too much time has passed between the testator’s death and filing the necessary paperwork, then the option for informal probate may no longer be available. In such cases, the estate will simply pass through the standard state probate procedures.

Finally, it is important to check or have a lawyer review the local laws applicable to the informal probate matter. As mentioned, every state has enacted its own unique set of laws to deal with these types of proceedings. Thus, there may be additional or alternative requirements to fulfill depending on the jurisdiction.

As an example, Arizona only permits specific people to file the petition forms for informal probate. These persons include the decedent’s spouse, adult child, parent, and a few others. In contrast, Colorado only permits a clearly identified and qualified individual (i.e., the personal representative) to file on behalf of the deceased testator.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Informal Probate Procedures?

Generally speaking, although it is not necessary to hire a lawyer for help with an informal probate proceeding, it is highly recommended that you do so. This is because there are many laws involved when handling estate matters and these laws can change depending on where you are located.

Therefore, you should consider working closely with an experienced probate lawyer when dealing with informal probate procedures. A lawyer in your area can assist you with legal matters, such as completing the necessary forms, filing the proper documents, appointing an executor, and determining how to distribute the property.

Additionally, a probate lawyer can also represent you in court in the event that there is a dispute or contest over the will or the estate property.