Clearly explaining the probate process
How do I know if a probate is needed?
There are a number of issues that determine whether or not a probate needs to be opened for a decedent's estate.
First, is there any real estate? If the decedent did not own real estate, had less than $100,000 worth of vehicles and less than $50,000 in personal property (such as bank accounts, etc.), then Alaska law allows for an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property to be used in place of a probate.
Second, is there a surviving spouse? If all of the decedent's property is owned jointly with a spouse (or others), then there may be no need for a probate. Sometimes determining ownership on real estate (did survivorship rights exist?) can be difficult. It may be best to consult an attorney to ensure that there are no probate assets.
If the decedent owned real estate, or more than the amounts listed above, and these assets were not titled jointly with another person, then a probate is most likely needed. At this point, it is highly recommended that you consult with a probate attorney because the probate process can be complex and difficult to navigate and the Personal Representative has many legal obligations and duties.
What if there is a trust?
If the decedent created a trust while alive, then a probate may not be required. It is highly recommended that you consult with an estate planning or probate attorney in order to determine if a probate is required. This determination requires a detailed review of the ownership of all of the decedent's assets.