topic | closing probate

Step 3: close regular or formal probate

Formal (regular) closure is required if probate was opened as a formal process or if there were legitimate disputes regarding the estate. Formal closure is often preferred, regardless if originally opened as informal, because of the finality it brings. Once the closing hearing is complete, creditors can no longer make claims on the estate.

If you have not already done so, consider the assistance of an estate attorney. Formal closure of an estate, or petitioning the court for a closing, can be a challenging process.

Activity 1
Research Required Documents

Probate procedures vary by state and county. Before going to the courthouse, research the necessary paperwork and forms and confirm with the court regarding the documents that are required. These may include:

If you have retained an estate attorney, he/she should provide the necessary legal documents. The executor should provide the remaining information.

Activity 2
Complete Court Forms

Forms required by the state or county court may be found on the court's website. Download and fill in the necessary information. Required forms may vary by county or state.  Some counties may also offer the necessary forms in a printed packet for a small fee.  These packets may come with minimal instructions.  The extent of help you will receive from the court staff will vary.  Consider consulting an estate attorney for assistance.

Activity 3
File Papers with the Court

Once legal forms are complete and the necessary documentation is gathered, file with the courthouse.  Upon review, a decision will be made regarding the closure of the probate process.

Best Practices

Keep copies of all paperwork given to an attorney or to the court.  This will save time and aggravation in the event that items are misplaced.

Be prepared to provide an original death certificate and self-identification.To save time, fill out the forms before going to the courthouse.  Signatures may need witnessing; only sign in the presence of a court representative.

Activity 4
Schedule a Court Hearing

If necessary the court may decide that a formal hearing is necessary to approve the actions of the executor, including the payments of any costs and fees.  The executor is required to be present for this hearing unless it is a Non-Appearance Hearing.  If an attorney has been hired for this process, they should attend with or in the place of the executor.

Heirs, creditors, or other interested parties with objections to closing the estate may attend this hearing.  This is their opportunity to present evidence that the estate was not settled properly or completely.

Activity 5
Receive the Official Notification of Closure

When it is determined by the court that the executor has met the terms for closing the estate, probate will be closed. Official notification will follow.  This correspondence will be sent to the executor or the attorney that handled closure of the estate.   

Occasionally, it is necessary to re-open probate.  For example, it may be discovered that the decedent owned additional property.  The procedure for re-opening probate is essentially the same as for initially opening the estate.  See the Topic: Opening Probate for additional instructions.  Check with the court or an estate attorney for specific instructions.

The estate administration process is now complete!  Your hard work has paid off. Congratulations!

(if this Step is complete)
Continue to
next Topic

Return to Step 2