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How to probate a will yourself

How you can probate a will yourself without an attorney

First let us define probate. Probate is the process of proving the valid will in court, and executing the wishes of the deceased expressed via the will. If there is no will, then the process is essentially the same except state law determines who the heirs are regardless of what the wishes may have been of the deceased.


What you need to do

1.) Have A Valid Will To Probate: Make sure you have a valid signed will. Keep in mind that people over the course of their lives may update wills, and thus have many original signed wills. Each new will should have a statement that this will cancels all other previous wills, thus the most recent will is the valid one. A valid will must be signed and comply with state requirements, often two witnesses or notarized. Many states do allow for a "napkin" will with only the deceased signature, although expect some scrutiny.

2.) Petition The Court To Accept Will And Grant Letters Of Testamentary: You will need to fill out the appropriate probate forms from the court. Keep in mind that the court will not help you or provide any legal advice. Probate forms can be confusing and overwhelming. You can hire a lawyer to help you; however the cost is often prohibitive with costs ranging from $3,000-$5,000 for simple estates to tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. EZ-Probate can help by providing ready to sign court documents and guide you through all the required probate forms and deadlines. We charge a flat $500 for the entire process and give you a free trial. 

See: How EZ-Probate can help you

3.) Process The Estate: This is when you will gather all the assets of the deceased, pay debts (including funeral expenses), pay any taxes due, and finally distribute assets to the heirs. Keep in mind that for every step of the probate process you will have to report to the court and interested parties all of your activities.

See: Learn more about the duties of an executor 

4.) Finalize The Estate: Once you have processed the estate you can now close the estate and get the final decree from the court. It is important that you have done everything in you power to gather assets, discover debts, and pay taxes. Only after those things are complete can you distribute to heirs and close the estate. Typically a closing report (accounting) is needed and you should keep good records to aid you in filling out the report.