Understanding Alaska Probate

Probate proceedings can be complicated and challenging. While probate may be necessary in some cases, there are situations where you can take advantage of a simplified version. In this blog, we’ll explain how probate works in Alaska and when you can bypass it.

Formal Probate

Formal probate cases are heard before a judge or magistrate and require pre-notification to all parties with a legal interest in the estate. With supervised administration, the court is involved at every stage, from interpretation of the will to approval of the final settlement.

Informal Probate

With informal probate, an application is made to the court, accompanied by the will (if one exists). After the Registrar reviews the application and confirms that it complies with the law, the court will issue an order appointing a personal representative for the estate. This person will transfer title of estate property to designated and legal beneficiaries after estate administration is finished.

To qualify for informal probate, all of these requirements must be met:

  • You have the original will (if one was made), the applicant has priority for appointment,  and you file a testate application.
  • If the person did not leave a will and there is more than one heir, the heirs agree about who will be appointed personal representative and you file an intestate application.
  • No one has objected to the applicant’s appointment as personal representative.

You can apply for informal probate as soon as 120 hours after the person dies. Although Notice of Heirs must be sent to all interested parties within 30 days after the appointment of a personal representative, no hearing is necessary. 

Probate for small estates

Alaska has a streamlined probate process for smaller estates. To determine if an estate qualifies, the value of all property must be less than the following amounts added together, minus any liens or debts:

  • Exempt property
  • Family allowance
  • Homestead allowance
  • Probate fees
  • Funeral costs
  • Medical costs of the decedent’s final illness

The personal representative of a small estate must follow all of the informal probate steps, with the following exceptions:

  • They don’t have to give Notice to Creditors or pay creditor claims
  • They can immediately transfer property to beneficiaries

There may not be a reason to open a small estate even if you meet the amounts in the statute and if you do, you can open transfer assets and close the estate relatively quickly.

Collection by affidavit

This option is available for smaller estates that meet the following conditions:

  • At least 30 days have passed since the person died.
  • There has been no application to appoint a personal representative.
  • The person either did not own any real property (such as a home or land) or, if they did, there was a transfer on death deed or it passed to someone else by operation of law..
  • The value of all vehicles they owned is $100,000 or less.
  • The value of all other personal property the deceased owned is $50,000 or less after subtracting any debts and liens. This does not include property that passes by operation of law a beneficiary (e.g. a joint bank account).

Under these circumstances, heirs and beneficiaries can collect their property by preparing an affidavit swearing that they are entitled to a particular asset. They then present the document and possibly a copy of the death certificate to the person or institution holding the property and claim it.

Have questions about probate in Alaska?

If you require legal assistance with the probate process in Alaska or need help creating an estate plan that can bypass probate entirely, Barlow Anderson is here to help. To schedule a consultation, call us at (907) 375-0750.