Alaska probate can vary between simple and easy and incredibly complex. The complexity and length of probate depends on the nature of the assets in the estate, the validity of the will, the relationships between the heirs, and any other legal issues that the decedent left behind.
There are two types of estates: intestate estates and testate estates. Intestate estates are those for which the decedent did not have a valid will. The heirs are determined by law. Testate estates are those for which the decedent had a valid will. The heirs are determined by the will.
A probate begins with an application to the court. The individual or entity who wishes to be appointed as the “personal representative” (the person in charge of the estate) submits certain information to the court and asks the court to be appointed as the personal representative. Once the person or entity has been appointed as personal representative, he or she can begin to act on behalf of the estate. Sometimes there are roadblocks to being appointed as personal representative, such as if more than one person wishes to be appointed, which can slow up the process.
Many people ask me how long a probate process will take from start to finish. I usually say that probate takes at least a year, and sometimes several years. The length of time depends on the complexities and the assets involved.
Personal representatives engage us as legal counsel to represent them and guide them through the probate process. We educate personal representatives as to their duties, and often handle some or all of the communications with beneficiaries. We prepare all court filings for the personal representative, and generally assist with all aspect of the estate administration.
We also are here to help beneficiaries ensure that their inheritance rights are protected. Heirs may wish to have legal counsel represent them as beneficiaries of the estate. When we represent beneficiaries, we will review all court filings, advise beneficiaries as to their rights, and handle some or all communications with the personal representative or his or her attorney.
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