When a loved one passes away, one of the last things on your mind is how to file probate papers. After the funeral arrangements and services have concluded, however, it is time to start the formal process of distributing the person’s assets and paying off any debts. Unless the decedent placed his property into a trust, the most common way to handle the administration of a person’s estate is to begin the probate process. This process begins when probate papers are filed with the probate court.
Locate the decedent’s will and read it to determine who the decedent named as the personal representative. If there is no personal representative named or available, notify the decedent’s surviving spouse, children or parents. Any one of those persons may proceed in filing the probate papers and starting the probate process.
Visit the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. Tell the clerk you need probate papers and inform her as to whether the decedent left a will. The papers might vary depending on whether there is a will available. For example, if no will is available, you may need to fill out an affidavit of heirship. That document lists the names of the decedent’s heirs and is used to determine how property is distributed.
Complete the forms according to their instructions. Typically, you must fill out a petition for probate which asks the court to reserve time on the probate docket in order to handle and distribute the decedent’s estate. Along with this form, you may need to attach an original copy of the decedent’s will and fill out notices that inform creditors and heirs that the decedent died.
Deliver the completed forms to the clerk at the probate court. Pay any applicable filing fee. The clerk will file the papers and send you notices as to when any hearings or meetings are to take place.
- Florida Bar Association: Where Are Probate Papers Filed?
- Texas Courts: Affidavit of Heirship Example
- California Superior Courts: Sample Probate Petition
- Judicial Council of California. "Wills, Estates, and Probate." Accessed June 30, 2020.
- Fidelity. "Settling the Estate: Probate." Accessed June 30, 2020.
- Margaret A. Munro and Kathryn A. Murphy. "Estate & Trust Administration For Dummies," Page 20. John Wiley & Sons, 2018.
- J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. "How to Title Your Assets." Accessed June 30, 2020.
- Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara. "2. What Are the Advantages of a Living Trust?" Accessed June 30, 2020.
- Nolo. "If a Beneficiary Dies Before You Do." Accessed June 30, 2020.
- Nolo. "What Assets Must Go Through Probate?" Accessed June 30, 2020.
- Justia. "Transferring Property Outside Probate." Accessed June 30, 2020.
- Alaska Court System. "What Is a Pourover Will?" Accessed June 30, 2020.
Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.