How to Fill Out Probate Forms
If you have lost a loved one and need to distribute assets to the heirs
and pay the decedent¡¯s bills, you will need to probate the estate.
Probating an estate begins with filling out probate forms. To fill out
probate forms, just follow the steps below.
1Calculate the value of the estate. The value of the estate will help
determine what type of estate it is, and therefore what forms should be
completed. The higher the value of the estate, the more complicated and
detailed the forms may be. To calculate the value of an estate follow
these steps:<Calculate the value of all of the decedent¡¯s property. This
includes all real property, or real estate, bank accounts, investments,
vehicles, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, interests in businesses;
everything the decedent owned. When valuing vehicles, you should use
theKelly Blue Bookvalue and when valuing real property, a written
appraisal of the value on the date of death. Some states may require that
a licensed appraiser also appraise personal property.
Calculate the value of all of the decedent¡¯s debt. This includes all
loans, mortgages, and debts that became due on or before the date of
Subtract the value of the debts from the value of the estate. For
example, if the value of the decedent¡¯s property is $100,000 and the
value of debt $40,000, you would subtract $40,000 from $100,000, so the
value of the estate would be $60,000.
2Determine the type of estate you will need to open. There are some
specifics to consider, in order to determine the type of estate, these
include:The value of the estate. Most states have a simplified process
for small estates, or those valued under a certain dollar amount, usually
$25,000 - $75,000. Check your state¡¯s statutes for the limit on a small
estate value. You can find your state¡¯s probate statues by using the
directory onState Laws: Estates and Probateat FindLaw.
What the Personal Representative¡¯s title will be. For estates not
qualifying as a small estate, a Personal Representative (¡°PR¡±) will
need to be appointed. If the decedent died with a Will, the PR is called
an Executor. If the decedent died without a Will, the PR is called an
Whether you will need formal or informal probate. In some states, there
are formal and informal probate procedures. Formal probate is used when
there is some issue with the estate, such as when an heir cannot be
found, the Will is missing, there is a dispute about who should act as
PR, or there is a dispute between the heirs.
How much Court supervision there will be. In a few states, there are
supervised and unsupervised estates. Supervised estates require that
everything be reported to the Court and that the PR get the permission of
the Court before committing any act in connection with the estate.
Unsupervised estates allow the PR to act without the Court¡¯s
3Determine who will act as Personal Representative. When there is a Will
that names a PR, this may be quite easy, however if the named PR does not
wish to act as such, or is unable to do so, or there is no Will naming a
PR, it can become a bit complicated. Generally, a spouse, child, parent,
or sibling is appointed as PR, in that order. However, others may serve.
Some things to keep in mind when choosing a PR include:In many states, a
person who has been convicted of a felony, is not qualified to serve as a
Personal Representative. Check your state¡¯s laws for any restrictions
such as this, by choosing your state from the list onState Laws: Estates
and Probateat FindLaw and reviewing the probate laws.
A PR has many responsibilities and may have a lot of work to do and
errands to run in connection with the estate. Those with long works hours
or young children may not have enough time to act as a Personal
More than one PR may be appointed, and the Co-Personal Representatives,
as they are called, may be required to act together or each allowed to
act on his or her own.
A bank or financial institution may be appointed as PR or Co-Personal
Representative. For information on a financial institution¡¯s PR
services, contact the Wealth Management department of the particular
4Determine whether the Personal Representative is required to hire an
attorney. In a few states, such as Florida, a Personal Representative is
almost always required to have an attorney. You can find your state¡¯s
probate laws by choosing your state from the list onState Laws: Estates
and Probateat FindLaw or contact the Court Clerk to determine if your
state requires a PR to have an attorney.
5Locate the appropriate forms. If your state requires you to have a
lawyer, he or she will prepare the probate forms for you. If you are not
required to have an attorney, and wish to prepare the forms yourself,
there are a few different ways to find the correct forms:Check with the
County Clerk or the Court. You can visit in person, or locate the website
by visiting the Internal Revenue Service¡¯sState Government Websites
Purchase forms from a legal form website. Run a search at your favorite
search engine or tryUSLegal.
Hire a paralegal or legal document preparer. Much cheaper than attorneys,
paralegals and legal document preparers can provide you with the
appropriate forms and help you fill them out.
6Read the instructions. If your forms came with instructions, read them.
You will save yourself a lot of time and some grief later, if you read
the instructions carefully, being sure to make note of any requirements
when filling out the form, such as only using a certain color of ink.
7Provide the requested information. Be sure to type or print neatly in
blue or black ink. Information that you may need to complete the forms
includes:The decedent¡¯s full name, address, date of birth, and date of
death. If the decedent used any names other than his or her legal name,
be sure to include this information in your Petition.
The full name, address, and telephone number of the Personal
The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the heirs. If the decedent
did not leave a Will, heirs can be determined by checking your state¡¯s
intestate inheritance laws, in the probate code. You can find your
state¡¯s probate code by choosing your state from the list onState Laws:
Estates and Probateat FindLaw.
The value of the estate and the amount of each heirs expected
An inventory of all personal and real property of the decedent. The
inventory may or may need to be filed with the Court, depending on the
type of estate you have. In all cases, it will need to be made available
to each of the heirs.
Have the appropriate people sign the documents. Depending on what type of
estate you have, you will need the signatures of all of the heirs, the
PR, or both. If a signature must be notarized, have the person who is
signing do so in front of notary public.
Sources and Citations