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Clearly explaining the probate process
in Alaska
The Probate Process
There are two main ways that probate cases travel through the court system. The first is the "informal" probate process. This type of probate is generally used when there are no questions of heirship or estate representation and is the most common type of probate.

The second is the "formal" probate process. This type of probate is generally used when there are questions requiring a judge to oversee the selection of a personal representative or the determination of heirs, or to resolve conflicts. 

The Informal Probate Process

  • Someone dies, leaving assets that must be transferred to her heirs. 
  • The family or Personal Representative meets with an attorney to discuss the process. 1 week – 6 months from the date of death. 
  • The Personal Representative (usually with an attorney’s assistance) files documents requesting official appointment by the court. 1 week – 6 months from the date of death. 
  • The court appoints the Personal Representative by issuing official appointment papers known as Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. 1 – 6 weeks from filing with the court. 
  • The Personal Representative gathers the estate assets, distributes personal property, sells real estate, publishes notice to and compiles a list of creditors, and generally prepares the estate for distribution. 6 months – 2 years. 
  • After the end of the “Creditor Claim” period, a determination is made as to which claims will be paid. Payments depend on the solvency of the estate and are determined by statutory guidelines (i.e. by law). See Creditors & Creditor Claims for more information. 
  • Once claims have been paid, the Personal Representative prepares a “Final Accounting and Notice of Proposed Distribution” detailing the assets of the estate and how they are to be distributed. Heirs have 30 days to object to the Final Accounting. 6 months or more after the Personal Representative has been appointed. 
  • The estate is distributed to the heirs. 30 days from the filing of the Final Accounting. 
  • The Personal Representative files a Sworn Statement with the court saying that the estate has been distributed and is ready to be closed. 30 days from filing the Final Accounting and after distribution to heirs. 
  • The estate is officially closed by the Court and the Personal Representative is discharged. 1 year from filing the Sworn Statement. 


The Formal Probate Process 

  • Someone dies, leaving assets that must be transferred to his heirs. 
  • The family or Personal Representative meets with an attorney to discuss the process. 1 week – 6 months from the date of death. 
  • The Personal Representative (usually with an attorney’s assistance) files documents requesting official appointment by the court. 1 week – 6 months from the date of death. 
  • The court holds a hearing to select and appoint the Personal Representative and (in the event of an intestate estate) to determine who are the heirs. 1-3 months from the filing of the opening documents. 
  • Following the hearing, the court appoints the Personal Representative by issuing Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. 1 – 6 weeks from the date of the hearing. 
  • The Personal Representative gathers the estate assets, distributes personal property, sells real estate, publishes notice to and compiles a list of creditors, and generally prepares the estate for distribution. Often in a formal process, these decisions must approved by a judge. 6 months – 2 years. 
  • After the end of the Creditor Claim period, a determination is made as to how many and which claims will be paid. Payments depend on the solvency of the estate and are determined by statutory guidelines (i.e. by law). See Creditors & Creditor Claims for more information. 
  • Once claims have been paid, the Personal Representative submits a proposal to the court detailing the assets of the estate and how they are to be distributed. +6 months or more after the Personal Representative has been appointed. 
  • Another hearing is held allowing heirs and creditors a chance to object to the proposed plan. 2-4 months after the Personal Representative submits a plan. 
  • The judge issues an approval of final distributions, and the estate is distributed to the heirs. 1 week to 3 months after the hearing. 
  • The estate is officially closed by the Court and the Personal Representative is discharged.