There are two types of estates in Indiana: supervised and unsupervised, also known as formal or informal respectively. The former is subject to probate court supervision, while the latter is under less direct scrutiny. Unsupervised estates do not require the submission of a final accounting by the estate's executor, also known as a personal representative, to the court before assets are distributed to beneficiaries. Instead, the personal representative must file a final statement with the court.
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Filing a Petition for An Unsupervised Estate
If the decedent left a will, the personal representative or a beneficiary named in the will may file a petition for unsupervised estate administration in the probate court in the county in which the decedent resided. If the decedent died without a will, or intestate, his heirs at law may file. Heirs at law are subject to the Indiana statutes for intestate succession, based on marital and kinship ties. The clerk of the court sends a notice of the petition filing to the decedent's creditors.
Notice of Unsupervised Estate to Distributees
After the appointment of the estate's personal representative and the filing of the petition for unsupervised administration, the clerk sends a notice to all parties named in the will or heirs at law, known as distributees. The notice informs the distributee that administration does not include court supervision and the representative may take actions regarding the estate without consulting him. The notice also includes contact information for the personal representative and states that the representative does not need court approval for attorney or other professional fees, or for fees paid to the representative for work on the estate. The distributee has the right to receive a copy of the estate inventory prepared by the representative. However, if he is given only a specific bequest rather than receiving a portion of the estate's assets after all debts are paid, he may only receive information concerning the particular bequest rather than all estate assets. The personal representative must provide a copy of the closing statement to all distributees. A distributee may file an objection to this statement with the court within three months of its filing. If no objection is filed within that time period, the estate is considered closed. However, distributees are entitled by law to petition the court for supervised estate administration.
Personal Representative Duties
Once appointed by the court, the personal representative must publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper, preserve all assets, pay all of the decedent's debts, along with filing a final tax return and an estate tax return. She must submit an inventory of all real and personal property titled solely in the decedent's name within two months of appointment. In an unsupervised estate, the representative may sell assets to pay creditors or taxes, distribute property to beneficiaries and close the estate without either a court order or hearing.
When Supervision Is Necessary
Not all estates qualify for unsupervised status. The probate court should supervise the estate if there are any types of probate disputes, including a likely contest of the will, estate insolvency, wrongful death or similar claims regarding the decedent, or if the decedent distributed assets in an unusual way in the will. In Indiana, reasons for contesting the will include the decedent's unsound mind at the time of executing the will and execution of the will under fraud or duress. Unusual distribution might include leaving important assets to someone with an unknown or brief connection to the decedent, or any asset distribution that could provoke a will contest. Under Indiana law, petitions to contest a will must be submitted to the court within three months of the opening of probate.