Guide to Completing Probate Forms

You will be required to complete probate forms if you are the executioner listed on an individual's will. Probate is an unfortunate part of the legal process involved in dispersing an estate after a person has passed away. Probate essentially verifies all the information listed in a will is correct and complete; it also assures the will is executed according to the fashion designed by the individual will creator. Probate can be a drawn out process, and it can create a significant stress for all those involved. The probate forms in particular may be confusing, but simple steps can be followed to assure you are filing correctly.

Step #1 File a Petition for Probate

Each step in probate has multiple smaller steps within it. When you file your probate petition, you will need to take mini-steps along the way. Start by calling the Probate Calendar Clerk in your state in order to set a hearing date, and then begin collecting forms for the petition, including:

  • Petition for Probate
  • The original will, if any will exists, along with subsequent forms needed to prove the will such as Proof of Holographic Instrument or Proof of Subscribing Witness
  • A Notice of Petition to Administer Estate, if required in your state

Step #2 Public Notification

Once you have filed your petition for probate, you will need to make sure every party interest is notified. You will provide notice to any individual who has a vested interest in the estate. In addition, you must publicize the information in a newspaper in most states, giving other parties who you may not be aware of the opportunity to learn of the probate. This will appear in the legal section of a newspaper, and you will be publishing the "Notice of Petition to Administer Estate." You must publish more than once in many states; three publications are often required. Further, each state will have regulations regarding the timing of the publication. For example, you may need to publish at least two weeks before the trial date. You can prove you have completed this step by filing a Proof of Service by Mail and Proof of Publication.

Step #3 Attend a Hearing

Once your hearing date arrives, you will attend the hearing will all appropriate documents. You will be given a signed copy of the Order for Probate during your hearing. This must be filed in the Clerk's Office. You may request certified copies from the Clerk's Office if desired. In addition to filing the Order, you may be required to file Letters with the Clerk's Office. Letters serve as validation that you have been appointed as the representative acting on behalf of the estate. Every person assigned to this position must sign the letter. Letters will first be filed with the court prior to the hearing date in order to verify your authority to appear in court. They will subsequently be filed with the Clerk's Office for future reference, and you may request copies of all documentation.

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