Navigational bar Return to the Self Help Services: Probate home page Probate Forms Glossary of Probate Terms Alaska Court System website
Court System Home » Representing Yourself » Probate Home » Distribution of Estate Assets

Distribution of Estate Assets

Return to top of page

When do I make distributions?

If you are sure that there is enough property in the estate to pay Allowances, Exempt Property, and creditor claims, you can make distributions. This means you can transfer property at any time to the persons who are supposed to receive it. If you are not sure, you should wait until you have paid these before transferring any property. You must complete all distributions or make arrangements for future distributions before you close the probate.

Before you transfer property, you may choose to send a Proposal for Distribution to the interested persons affected by your planned distributions. A person has 30 days from the date of mailing (if you mail the Proposal) or the date of delivery (if you hand-deliver the Proposal) to object to the kind or value of the property that he or she will receive. If the person does not object within this time period, he or she cannot object later. A Proposal for Distribution is not necessary but if the probate has been contested or there has been little communication between the Personal Representative and the beneficiaries or heirs, it may be a good idea.

Return to top of page

How do I prepare a Proposal for Distribution?

A Proposal for Distribution should say the following:

Mail by first-class mail or hand-deliver the Proposal to all persons you name in the Proposal, as well as any other interested persons who the Proposal might affect.

Return to top of page

How do I make distributions?

You must transfer title of each item of property to the person who is supposed to receive the property under the Will or through intestacy. The process is different for each type of property and may involve things such as preparing a new deed, changing the account title or giving the person a Deed of Distribution that proves he or she is the rightful owner. For information on how to transfer specific types of property, see Transferring Assets.

Return to top of page

Should I ask for anything in exchange from the persons who receive the property?

Yes. It is a good idea to have each person who receives estate property sign a document called a "Receipt and Release." This document confirms that the person did in fact receive the property and accepts it as his or her rightful share under the Will or through intestacy. It also reduces the risk of later disputes when you close the estate.

The Receipt should include the following:

If appropriate, the Receipt can also say that the person:

You should file all original Receipts and Releases with the court when you close the estate.

Return to top of page

Can I hold back property to pay costs after the probate is closed?

Yes. You can hold back a reasonable amount of property to cover final costs such as accounting fees, lawyer fees or a final tax bill. If you close the probate by filing a Sworn Statement of Personal Representative Closing Estate, you should include the amount you plan to hold back, the purpose of the amount and your plan to distribute any remaining property after you pay the final costs. When filing a Sworn Statement, it is a good idea to have the persons who are affected by the amount you are holding back agree to your plan in the Receipt and Release. If you close the probate formally, you should ask the court to approve the amount that you want to hold back, the purpose of the amount and your plan to distribute any remaining property after you pay the final costs.

Return to top of page

If the person who died gave property to a person before death, does this reduce the same person's share?

Generally, no. The beneficiary or heir will receive the gift of property made before the person's death and the property inherited after death.

But the share of the beneficiary or heir will be reduced if one of the following applies:

If a gift of property made before the person's death reduces the share of the beneficiary or heir, the property is valued at the time the beneficiary or heir received the property or on the date of the person's death, whichever comes first.

Return to top of page

What if the person who is supposed to inherit property owes a debt to the person who died or to the estate?

You must subtract the debt from the value of the property. For example, if a child owed money to a parent before death but did not pay the loan back, you must reduce the amount passing to the child under a Will or through intestacy by the amount of the debt.

Return to top of page

How do I transfer property to a beneficiary or heir who is a minor or who the court has decided is unable to manage his or her own funds?

You must give the property to a person authorized to accept the property, such as the person's parent, Guardian or Conservator. If you have any questions about who is authorized to accept the property, you should talk to a probate lawyer.

Return to top of page

What if I can't find the person who is supposed to receive property from the estate?

If you cannot find a beneficiary, heir or claimant and the missing person has no Conservator, you must transfer the property to the state of Alaska.

If a beneficiary, heir or claimant thinks that property wrongly passed to the state of Alaska, that person may be able to get the property back if he or she acts promptly. It is a good idea to talk with a probate lawyer if property must pass or has passed to the state of Alaska.

Return to top of page

Do I have to pay off a loan against estate property before distributing it?

No. If the person who died left the property in his or her Will specifically to someone, the property passes with the loan still in effect unless the Will says differently. You can always pay off a loan, such as a mortgage on a home or the loan on a car, if it is in the best interests of the estate. But the share of the person who is supposed to receive the property does not increase if you pay off the loan with estate property.

Return to top of page

What if there is not enough property in the estate to make all distributions under the Will?

If the Will does not say differently, distributions are paid in a specific order. Distributions are sorted into classes called "gifts" and each class has a different right to payment. You must make all gifts in the class with the highest priority first. If there is enough estate property after those gifts are made, you can move to the next highest class and make those gifts. If there is not enough property to make all gifts in a certain class, you must make partial distributions by applying the same percentage to all gifts in that class. After that, you cannot make any gifts in classes with a lower priority.

Below is a list of gifts under a Will in order of priority:

Return to top of page

What if the Will does not dispose of all of the person's property?

A properly prepared Will should direct how all of the property of the person who died passes. But if it does not, any property not included in the Will passes to the heirs of the person who died through partial intestacy (as if there was no Will). This type of property is the last to be distributed if there is not enough property to make all of the gifts under the Will. Read about what happens to property when there is no Will.

Return to top of page

Can the persons who are supposed to inherit property under a Will or through intestacy change their shares?

Yes. Persons who inherit property under the Will or through intestacy can change their shares, the amount and the types of property they are supposed to receive if all persons affected by the change agree in writing. The Personal Representative must transfer the property in the way the persons have agreed. However, the agreement cannot affect the rights of creditors or persons with another right to the property.

Return to top of page

Can the Personal Representative recover property that was improperly distributed?

Yes, if it has been less than three years since the person died or one year after the property was distributed, whichever is later. If the Personal Representative asks, the person who received the property must return the property and any income the property earned. If the person no longer has the property, the person must return the value of the property and any income the property earned as of the date he or she disposed of the property.

Return to top of page

Is someone who buys estate property or loans money secured by estate property protected if it turns out that the property was improperly distributed?

Yes. If the person who sold or borrowed against the property had title to the property or a Deed of Distribution from the Personal Representative, another person who bought or loaned money in good faith has no responsibility to the estate or the person who owned the property. For example, if a bank loans money to a person who received real property from the estate in exchange for a Deed of Trust but it turns out that the real property was not distributed correctly, the bank does not lose its rights in the real property.

Return to top of page


Rev. 20 March 2013
© Alaska Court System
www.courts.alaska.gov
webmaster@courts.state.ak.us
Adobe Acrobat PDF logo You'll need to download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view and print documents with this symbol. If you are using a screen reader, get support and information at the Adobe Access website.