Idaho Law Regarding Death & Probate

By Maggie Lourdes

When an Idaho resident dies, his property may be subject to probate. Probate is the process of transfering ownership of a decedent's property to others. Probate courts appoint executors, also called personal representatives, who have the job of transferring a decedent's property to heirs. Not all estates require probate. Some estate planning tools, called will substitutes, bypass probate court. Trusts and joint tenancies are examples of will substitutes.

Opening a Probate Estate

Executors are nominated in wills. When the maker of a will dies, the nominee files a probate court petition in the county where the decedent resided. The probate court then appoints the nominee as executor to administer the estate. If a person dies intestate, meaning without a will, the court chooses a personal representative; relatives are preferred, but if none are available, the court can select any competent party to serve.

Administering a Probate Estate

An executor must notify a decedent's heirs when he opens a probate estate. He must also provide an inventory of the estate's assets and valuations. An executor takes control of estate assets, pays debts and distributes property to heirs. An executor is empowered to do everything necessary to administer an estate, including tasks such as signing property deeds, selling assets, filing tax returns and closing financial accounts.

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Different Probate Proceedings

Idaho law permits informal probate proceedings. Informal probate does not require court hearings or judicial supervision. Formal proceedings are more complicated, with the court holding hearings to do things such as determine heirs' rights and confirm the validity of wills. Formal probate proceedings are common when disputes exist between interested parties.

Closing Probate Estates

An Idaho executor closes a probate proceeding by filing a sworn statement that says the executor provided notice to creditors, paid all lawful debts and distributed the decedent's property to the proper heirs. The executor must provide the sworn statement to the estate's heirs and creditors and pay any outstanding court fees before closing an estate.


The size of an estate and other individual circumstances can affect probate proceedings. Specific questions about Idaho probate law should be directed to an attorney familiar with the state's requirements.

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When to Notify the Executor of a Will

Called a personal representative in some states, the executor named in a will assumes responsibility for administering the decedent's estate after formal appointment by the probate court. The executor should be notified as soon as possible after the death of the decedent. The role of executor entails great responsibility, as this person is entrusted with paying the decedent's debts and taxes, managing assets and ensuring those assets eventually pass to the rightful beneficiaries.

What Happens if an Executor Refuses to Probate?

An executor has a duty to act in the best interest of the estate, and refusing to probate an estate may be cause for the executor to be removed. State probate laws differ, but the Uniform Probate Code, approved by the National Conference of Commissioners On Uniform State Laws, provides a general framework for handling an executor refusing to move the probate process along. In addition to removal, an executor may be held personally liable for breaching his fiduciary duty to the probate estate.

The Amount of Time Allowed to Probate a Will in Pennsylvania

State laws vary with regard to probate. Probate is a judicial process where a special court oversees the administration of a decedent’s estate. Typically, when a person, or testator, creates a will, the testator appoints a personal representative, or executor, in the will to administer the testator’s estate upon death. Once the testator dies, the executor must file the will for probate. In Pennsylvania, the executor may probate the will at any time after the testator’s death.

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