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Getting Started

First decide which procedure to use. Figuring out if you have to go to probate court depends on many issues, like the amount of money involved, the type of property involved, and who is claiming the property. The chart below lists the three types of probate procedures and their different requirements.

Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (no court case is needed) Informal Probate Formal Probate

The estate must meet all of these conditions:

  • 30+ days have passed since the person died
  • No one started a court case to appoint a Personal Representative
  • The person who died did not own any real property, or they had real property but it passed automatically to someone else because they were tenants by the entirety or there was a Transfer on Death Deed.
  • Value of all Alaska registered vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, trailers and manufactured homes not permanently attached to real property) is $100,000 or less, after subtracting all loans and liens against the vehicles. It does not include snow machines, ATVs, tractors, off-road equipment or boats.
  • Value of all other personal property owned is $50,000 or less, after subtracting debts and liens against the property. Personal property means cash, checks, bank accounts, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, furnishings, jewelry, artwork, tools, equipment and similar items. It does not include nonprobate property which passes automatically to someone without a probate (for example a joint bank account).

Learn more about using the Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property of Decedent.

The estate may proceed as an informal probate if:

  • It has been three years or less since the person died;
  • If the person who died made a Will, you have the original Will;
  • If the person who died made more than one Will, the latest Will cancels (revokes) the older Wills;
  • You have priority to be the Personal Representative; and
  • No one has objected to the informal probate or your appointment as Personal Representative.

If you do not meet all of these requirements you will usually need to petition for formal probate.

Learn more about Informal Probate.

If the estate is small enough, it may qualify as a “small estate” which has fewer requirements than a regular informal probate. Learn more about Small Estates.

The estate will proceed as a formal probate if:

  • You want to appoint a Personal Representative who does not have priority.
  • You can't find the original Will.
  • The Will is not self-proved.
  • The person who died made more than one Will but the last Will does not cancel (revoke) the earlier Wills.
  • In most cases, if it has been more than three years since the person died.
  • You want to object to the appointment of the Personal Representative.
  • You want the court to supervise the Personal Representative.
  • You want to set aside or stop an informal probate.
  • You want to change the informal probate into a formal probate.
  • You want to challenge the Will.

These are the most common reasons. You may also want to open a formal probate for other reasons such as doubts about the person's death or finding a new Will. If you think that you need to open a formal probate, it is a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer.

Learn more about Formal Probate.


Rev. 4 June 2014
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