HomeGetting StartedSurviving SpouseProbate ProcessFor AttorneysForms & ResourcesContact Us

Clearly explaining the probate process
in Alaska
Terminology
Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property – In the event of very small estates with no real estate, an Affidavit for Collection may be used to transfer vehicles or cash accounts belonging to the decedent, without opening a probate. See Affidavit for Collection.

Augmented Estate - The augmented estate includes all property of a decedent immediately prior to death. This includes assets that pass outside of probate due to joint titling, beneficiary designation or pay on death designations. The probate estate includes only property passing through the probate process. If the decedent was married, the augmented estate includes the property of the surviving spouse.

Beneficiary - Any person who receives an asset from another person or a probate estate is called a beneficiary. 

By Right of Representation - When a decedent’s estate passes by right of representation to descendants, the estate is divided into as many equal shares as there are descendants in the first generation, both living and deceased. The living children inherit their equal share. The shares for the deceased children are combined into one and then divided into equal shares for each of the surviving children of the deceased children (i.e. the decedent’s grandchildren).

                 Example: Assume that when Grandma Moses died she had one living child, Robert, and two deceased
                 children Sarah and Gwen. Assume further that Sarah had one surviving child, Cindy, and Gwen had
                 three surviving children Larry, Harry and Mary. Under right of representation, the Robert receives one third
                 of the estate and the four surviving grandchildren, Cindy, Larry, Harry and Mary share equally in two thirds
                 of the estate. If the estate passed instead per stirpes, the surviving Robert would receive one third of the
                 estate, Cindy would receive one third of the estate and Larry, Harry and Mary would share in one third of
                 the estate.

Creditor Claim – A document filed by a creditor asserting the amount and basis of a debt owed by the decedent. Claims do not have to be filed with the probate court to be valid. A bill sent to the Personal Representative may be a valid claim. See Creditors & Creditor Claims

Death Certificate - An official document provided by the state of the decedent's death which contains detailed information about the decedent and the circumstances of his or her death. 

Devisee - When a decedent leaves a valid will leaving property to one or more individuals, those individuals are referred to as devisees. 

Estate – The legal entity created to administer and distribute a person’s property upon his or her death.

Executor – In Alaska, an Executor is called a Personal Representative. See Personal Representative below.

Executrix - In Alaska, an Executrix is called a Personal Representative. See Personal Representative below.

Guardian – A guardian is a person appointed by the court to take care of or make decisions for a minor or incapacitated person.

Guardianship - The process by which a court appoints a guardian for another person. 

Heir - An heir is a person who is legally entitled to inherit from a decedent if the decedent does not leave a will. It is possible for a decedent to leave a will specifically disinheriting any heir, except a surviving spouse. 

Last Will and Testament – A document signed by the decedent indicating how he wanted his property to pass in the event of his death. In order to be valid in Alaska, a Last Will and Testament must meet specific legal requirements. See Proving the Will

Letters Testamentary – This is a document issued by the court appointing the Personal Representative as the administrator for the estate and designating the extent of the Personal Representative’s authority. Letters Testamentary are specifically issued when the estate is testate (a Last Will and Testament exists).

Letters of Administration – This is a document issued by the court appointing the Personal Representative as the administrator for the estate and designating the extent of the Personal Representative’s authority. Letters of Administration are specifically issued when the estate is intestate (no Last Will and Testament exists).

Per Capita at Each Generation - Essentially the same as by right of representation. When a decedent’s estate passes by per capita at each generation to descendants, the estate is divided into as many equal shares as there are descendants in the first generation, both living and deceased. The living children inherit their equal share. The shares for the deceased children are combined into one and then divided into equal shares for each of the surviving children of the deceased children (i.e. the decedent’s grandchildren). See the example under by right of representation.

Per Stirpes - When a decedent’s estate passes per stirpes, the estate is divided into equal shares for each of the decedent’s children, whether living or deceased. The living children inherit their equal share. The children of the deceased children (i.e. the decedent’s grandchildren) then inherit the equal share that would have gone to their deceased parent. See the example under by right of representation.

Period of Administration - The span of time in which an estate is administered. It begins with the decedent's death and ends with the "Order Closing Estate" from the probate court. 

Personal Representative – A Personal Representative is the person who “represents” the estate. A Personal Representative has the authority to sell a decedent’s assets, pay creditors’ claims, make distributions to heirs, and generally manage an estate. See The Personal Representative

Power of Attorney - This is a form by which a person may give legal signature authority to another person (referred to as an "agent"). A power of attorney may or may not be limited to certain powers, may become effective only on the signer's disability, or may become invalid on the signer's disability. All powers of attorney become invalid upon the signer's death. 

Probate - The legal process for transferring control of assets, winding up affairs, resolving disputes and creditor claims, and distributing estate assets to beneficiaries, heirs and devisees after someone dies. 

Probate Estate – The probate estate consists of the assets owned solely by a decedent and not controlled by beneficiary designations.

Taxable Estate – The taxable estate includes all assets controlled by the decedent on the date of death including jointly owned property and property controlled by beneficiary designations.

Trustee – A trustee is someone who has a fiduciary obligation to take care of trust property. A trustee must adhere to strict codes of conduct in ensuring that the trust property is managed and distributed in according to the terms of the trust.