Stages of Probate Administration
The First Stage:Appointment of the Personal Representative and Admitting
The first stage of the court process is started by someone who wants to be appointed
the Personal Representative. The person who wants the appointment completes an Application
for Informal Appointment of Personal Representative. Also, if no relative files
an application for appointment within 45 days of the decedent's death, any creditor
of the decedent can file the application.
If all documents are in order, the Probate Registrar will appoint the applicant
as personal representative, admit the original of the will, if there is a will,
and issue the Letters so that the personal representative can proceed with the administration
of the estate. This is called an informal process, and all of this is handled without
any court hearing at all.
If there is a problem about the priority or qualifications of the person seeking
appointment, or if the person died with a will but the original is missing or there
is a question about validity of the will, the case will start out as a formal case.
This means there will be a hearing at court to iron out the problems with appointment
and/or the validity of the will. After the hearing, the personal representative
who is appointed by court order can proceed with administration of the estate informally,
without more court hearings.
The Second Stage:Estate Administration
Stage two, the administration of the estate, begins as soon as the personal representative
is appointed. The duties and powers of a personal representative are the same whether
the appointment was made informally or formally.
The Third Stage:Closing the Estate
The last stage of the administration process is closing the estate.
If the personal representative has not had any problems determining who is entitled
to the property, he or she may close the estate informally. This means that the
personal representative must give a closing statement in writing of the administration,
to the heirs and claimants whose interest are affected by the distribution. The
closing statement must include a list of the debts and claims that were not paid.
If no court proceedings against the personal representative are pending in court
one year after the closing statement is filed, the appointment of the personal representative
is ended. After the appointment has ended, a personal representative who posted
a bond may ask the court for an order releasing the bond.
A personal representative may also ask the court to formally close the estate any
time after the period for presenting claims has ended. Any other interested person
may ask for a formal closing one year from the appointment of the personal representative.
If there is a formal closing, the court may approve or order the final distribution
of the estate, end the appointment, and discharge the personal representative from
further claim or demand of any interested person.