Duties of the Probate Court
Probate is the formal judicial process for transferring the property of a person who has died. The property is transferred according to either:
- If the person died without a will, the laws of intestate succession
- The deceased will
With efficient planning, a routine uncontested probate can be opened and closed in 6 to 12 months with a filing fee of $30.
Probate Court Jurisdiction
Probate Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The Probate Court only has jurisdiction over informal probates. The constitution defines the jurisdiction as follows:
- Admission of a Last Will and Testament to informal probate
- If required, fixing bond according to the formula set out in the State Probate Code
- Informal appointment of personal representatives to an estate
- To enable the personal representative to obtain a discharge of liens securing his performance
- Upon verified application of a personal representative, signing a certificate that the personal representative appears to have fully executed an estate
The Probate Court does not have jurisdiction over:
- Estates of missing persons
- Formal probate cases, including determination of heirship proceedings and construction of wills.
- Guardianship and conservatorships
When to File a Probate Case
A probate case can be filed more than 120 hours after the person has died but less than 3 years after the person has died. If no proceeding concerning the administration of the estate has occurred within three years after a decedent’s death, an informal proceeding may be commenced at any time thereafter for the sole purpose of establishing a devise of property and the order of the court shall be limited to that property.
The personal representative, commonly known as the executor, is the person who is legally responsible for administering the estate of the person who has died. The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to act in the interests of the deceased person on behalf of all devisees (persons who inherit under a will) or heirs (persons who inherit if there is no will), as well as to protect the interests of all creditors.
Qualifications as a Personal Representative
Anyone over age 18 can qualify as a personal representative. Close relatives of the deceased person have priority if the personal representative is not named in the will.