Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 12, 2011

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Typically the person named as the deceased’s personal representative (a more formal term is Executor or Executrix) goes to an attorney experienced in probate matters, who then prepares a petition for the court and takes it, along with the will, and files it with the probate court.

The person seeking to have the will admitted to probate, or that person’s attorney, must notify all those who would have legally been entitled to receive property from the deceased if the deceased had died without a will (intestate succession), plus all those named in the will. The notice will inform them of the will and give them an opportunity to file a formal objection to admitting the will to probate.

A hearing on the probate petition is typically scheduled several weeks to months after the matter is filed. It may be necessary to bring the persons who witnessed the deceased’s signature on the will to the hearing to testify. Whether this will be necessary depends on several factors: on the laws of the state, sometimes on who the named beneficiaries are, how long before the death the will was signed, whether the will was prepared by an attorney, who supervised the signing (execution) of the will, and/or whether the will was executed with certain affidavits.

If the court receives no objections to admitting the will to probate, and if everything seems in order, the court will approve the petition, appoint the personal representative, order that taxes and creditors be paid, and requires the personal representative to file reports with the court to assure all the deceased’s property is accounted for and distributed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the will.