Probate legal forms are the court documents needed to interact with the court in order to open, process, and close an estate.
Probate court is conducted at the county level, and each county may have its own set of forms. Many states have passed uniform court document legislation and the majority of court forms can be found at the state level.
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A word of caution: courts might not be readily available to help you
Before we show you how to find probate legal forms online for your county, allow us to caution you slightly about going completely on your own with these documents.
Each state and county can have slightly different sets of rules and major differences in attitude around self-representation.
No court will provide you with any legal advice. Most courts will not help you one bit in figuring out which forms are necessary and how to fill them out. Often the simplest question (not legal by any nature) will get the response... 'we don't provide legal advice'.
Other courts have excellent self-help programs, packets, and even dedicated staff to help you fill out the forms. In our experience, courts often have the attitude that you, a layperson, are not capable of filling out forms for a probate application and interacting with the court without an attorney.
Please know this is not true, as there are only two states that, by law, require an attorney for probate: Texas and Iowa.
How to find probate forms
1) Go to your web browser and search: "Probate Court (insert state)".
Tip: if you know the county name alter the search to include the county, e.g., “Probate Court Bucks County PA.”
The reason it is a good idea to search at the county level is they may have some extra information and even a "how-to packet". This is not common, but worth a shot. Some county websites will have a link to the state unified court documents section for probate.
2) Download the appropriate probate forms.
This is tricky, as most states and counties DO NOT provide any instruction, and rarely will help you when calling the court clerk. Generally speaking, you will need the following types of probate forms to initiate the petition.
Please note that the forms are often mixed in with other family court forms (adoption, guardianship, etc.) and may be difficult to locate. You should look for the following types of forms:
Petition For Probate - This is the Main form needed to start probate
Interested Party Notification & Certification - Form to notify interested parties (heirs, family etc.) that a petition for probate is being initiated and a certification to court that you have notified them
Initial Inventory - Usually required after appointment. Note, most states require this within 3 months of appointment
Creditor Notification / Estate Announcement - Notifying Creditors and placing a notice in a local paper of the estate are often required
Final Accounting - This is often missing in the available documents to download, but is absolutely necessary. The accounting will tell the court of all the activity of the estate
Final Distribution - The final step in probate, any remaining assets will be distributed to the appropriate people and the discharge from the court of your responsibilities
The above are just the most common set of forms. Each state and county will have different mandatory forms than the ones mentioned above. For example, New York State also requires a family tree and a firearms (stating if firearms are present) affidavit.
Also, if you don't fill out the correct probate form, you may unnecessarily make things harder. Many states have small estate procedures that are often overlooked. These small estate processes offer simpler procedures that dramatically reduce the time and effort required to complete probate.
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Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.