Who Can Get a Will Into Probate?

By Laura Wallace Henderson

Probate is the court-supervised process of administering the estate of a deceased person. Submitting the final will to the probate court starts the formal process. Probate proceedings vary from state to state, depending on local jurisdictions and the complexity of each estate. While general provisions apply to most probate proceedings, contact an attorney or your local probate court clerk if you have questions regarding specific instructions on filing a will for probate in your state.


Wills outline the deceased’s instructions regarding the division of assets. For individuals with minor children or pets, wills may also contain directives regarding the guardianship of dependents and the allocation of funds to cover any expenses in connection with providing care. After executing a will, individuals may amend or modify the provisions in the will to reflect changing circumstances.


Although stipulations may vary, most states require the submission of the will and death certificate within a few months of the date of death. Anyone in possession of the decedent’s original last will and testament must present the will to the named executor or to the probate court in the town or county of the decedent’s place of residence at the time of death.

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In addition to locating and filing the final will and the death certificate, the executor is responsible for other actions in administering the estate. In many instances, the executor must compile an accurate inventory of all the decedent’s belongings, pay any outstanding debts and taxes due, liquidate investments and real estate properties, make designated contributions to charities, and divided personal assets and belongings, according to the instructions in the will and the orders of the probate court.


After opening the estate for probate, the court will appoint the executor to serve in his legal capacity as administrator of the estate. The court issues letters of testamentary that provide the legal documentation necessary for the executor to represent the estate in financial activities. Interested parties may contest the validity of the will, or provisions within the will. In some cases, a written will does not exist or remains missing. Without an existing will, the court may appoint an executor and designate the division of the decedent’s assets.

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Instructions for Executors of Wills


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What Kinds of Things Can Be Assessed in a Probate With No Will?

When a person dies intestate, without a will, the probate court oversees the estate administrator and the division of assets. The court gives priority to the surviving spouse to serve as estate administrator, absent any objections from other heirs. The probate court requires the estate administrator to compile a list of probate inventory to be distributed through the probate proceedings. The estate assets will be distributed pursuant to your state's laws on intestate succession -- when there is no will, the law governs the line of descendants to receive inheritances.

How to Get a Copy of a Probated Will

A copy of a probated will is useful for a variety of reasons, including family tree research, property title research, and preparing for a legal challenge to the original probate proceedings. Once a will has been through probate -- the legal proceeding to settle the estate -- the will is considered public record. You can get a copy of a probated will by visiting the court where probate occurred.

Arkansas Will and Testament Filing

In Arkansas, as in most states, the probate process begins with filing the deceased’s will. It is a necessary first step before any payment of the deceased’s debts and distribution of his property to his beneficiaries can begin. The Circuit Court in the county where the testator lived when he passed away oversees probate. The court permits jury trials in the event of a dispute, and can punish anyone who doesn’t cooperate with the probate process with contempt of court.

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