Obtain distribution approval from probate court

Settle the Estate

Before assets can be given, or distributed, to heirs and beneficiaries, review state law and probate court procedures to determine if court approval is necessary.

Usually, the probate court will require a petition for final distribution to be submitted prior to giving assets to the deceased’s heirs and beneficiaries.

  • The Probate Court may provide fill-in-the-blank documents that catalog all Estate assets, expenses incurred by the Estate, income received, and the plan for distributing assets
  • The Probate Court may also require a hearing to review these forms. They may also require that interested persons (e.g. heirs, beneficiaries, creditors) be notified about the hearing, so they have an opportunity to contest the Estate if they so desire
  • Once approved by a judge, the Executor or Administrator is given official approval, often called an “Order” or “Decree” of Distribution, to give the remaining assets to Heirs and Beneficiaries of the deceased
  • If the Administrator or Executor will receive compensation for administering the Estate, their fee should also be included in the Petition for Final Distribution

Exclamation_Icon.svgEach state may have a different name for the “Petition for Final Distribution,” such as “Petition for Final Accounting.”

Review the laws of the state where the deceased lived to determine the title of the form required for final distributions.

Helpful Tips


The Petition for Final Distributions is typically a lengthy document that outlines most of the actions an Executor has taken, or will take, throughout the administration of the deceased’s Estate. It will include details about the deceased’s passing, whether they had a Will, who is to inherit the deceased’s assets (including how much and what they inherit), and which bills and debts were paid.

Even after the Probate court approves the Executor’s Petition for Final Distribution, the Executor must see that assets are given to the deceased’s Heirs and Beneficiaries, either in accordance with the deceased’s Will or state law. The Probate Court may also require that the Executor submit receipts from each Heir and Beneficiary documenting that they have received the assets to which they were entitled. To learn more about obtaining receipts from the deceased’s Heirs and Beneficiaries, review the section, “Obtain Receipts.”

Personal Considerations


Did the deceased have a Will?


The executor or administrator should review the will for distribution instructions and file a petition for final distribution with the probate court, if required by the rules of the state where the deceased lived.

As long as the deceased’s will was valid and confirmed by the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived, the probate court will allow the deceased’s will to guide the distribution process.

Typically, wills either stipulate that named beneficiaries are to receive a percentage share of the total estate (e.g. 25%) or specific assets of the estate (e.g. guns go to the deceased’s son, while the deceased’s vehicle goes to surviving daughter) or a combination of both specific assets and a percentage of the estate.

Most petitions for final distribution will require that the executor outline any distributions given to the deceased’s heirs and beneficiaries.

If the deceased had a will, the distributions listed on the petition for final distribution should align with the directives in the will.

The executor may need to show the probate court that they are distributing assets in accordance with the deceased’s will.

For example, let’s say Jane Doe passed away with a will and had a surviving husband, John, and a surviving adult son, Tom.

Jane’s will states that Tom is to receive a parcel of real estate that provides rental income, as well as several specific pieces of furniture.

The will also states that Tom is to receive 25% of the remaining cash value of her Estate after all debts are paid.

According to the will, the remaining balance of the estate’s value and all other personal property are to be kept by John.

Jane’s executor will need to follow the distribution guidelines in the will, giving the parcel of real estate, 25% of the estate’s cash value, and several specific pieces of furniture to Tom.

The executor will also need to give the remainder of jane’s personal property and estate assets to Jane’s husband, John.

Before the executor makes these distributions, however, they will need to get approval from the probate court, and outline the details of these distributions on the petition for final distribution.


The executor or administrator will make distributions to the deceased’s heirs, as defined by state law.

If the deceased did not have a will, they are considered intestate - which simply means the deceased passed without having a will.

Each state has their own laws of “intestate” succession, which determines how much of the deceased’s assets specific heirs are entitled to.

Any distributions made to heirs and beneficiaries will typically need to be recorded on the petition for final distribution form, for the probate court’s approval.

The executor will need to follow the instructions on the petition for final probate to obtain court approval for final disposition.

For example, let’s say Jane Doe was an Alaska resident. Jane has a surviving husband, John, and one adult child with John.

After paying all debts of Jane’s Estate, there are $100,000 in assets remaining to go to Jane’s Heirs. Jane did not have a Will, so Alaska’s rules of intestate succession will govern the distribution of Jane’s remaining assets.

According to Alaskan law, John will be entitled to the entire $100,000 of assets remaining, because Jane’s only surviving child is also a child of John.


If the deceased had a wil:

The executor or administrator should review the will for distribution instructions and file a petition for final distribution with the probate court, if required by the rules of the state where the deceased lived.

As long as the deceased’s will was valid and confirmed by the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived, the probate court will allow the deceased’s will to guide the distribution process.

Typically, wills either stipulate that named beneficiaries are to receive a percentage share of the total estate (e.g. 25%) or specific assets of the estate (e.g. guns go to the deceased’s son, while the deceased’s vehicle goes to surviving daughter) or a combination of both specific assets and a percentage of the estate.

Most petitions for final distribution will require that the executor outline any distributions given to the deceased’s heirs and beneficiaries.

If the deceased had a will, the distributions listed on the petition for final distribution should align with the directives in the will.

The executor may need to show the probate court that they are distributing assets in accordance with the deceased’s will.

For example, let’s say Jane Doe passed away with a will and had a surviving husband, John, and a surviving adult son, Tom.

Jane’s will states that Tom is to receive a parcel of real estate that provides rental income, as well as several specific pieces of furniture.

The will also states that Tom is to receive 25% of the remaining cash value of her Estate after all debts are paid.

According to the will, the remaining balance of the estate’s value and all other personal property are to be kept by John.

Jane’s executor will need to follow the distribution guidelines in the will, giving the parcel of real estate, 25% of the estate’s cash value, and several specific pieces of furniture to Tom.

The executor will also need to give the remainder of jane’s personal property and estate assets to Jane’s husband, John.

Before the executor makes these distributions, however, they will need to get approval from the probate court, and outline the details of these distributions on the petition for final distribution.

If the deceased did not have a wil:

The executor or administrator will make distributions to the deceased’s heirs, as defined by state law.

If the deceased did not have a will, they are considered intestate - which simply means the deceased passed without having a will.

Each state has their own laws of “intestate” succession, which determines how much of the deceased’s assets specific heirs are entitled to.

Any distributions made to heirs and beneficiaries will typically need to be recorded on the petition for final distribution form, for the probate court’s approval.

The executor will need to follow the instructions on the petition for final probate to obtain court approval for final disposition.

For example, let’s say Jane Doe was an Alaska resident. Jane has a surviving husband, John, and one adult child with John.

After paying all debts of Jane’s Estate, there are $100,000 in assets remaining to go to Jane’s Heirs. Jane did not have a Will, so Alaska’s rules of intestate succession will govern the distribution of Jane’s remaining assets.

According to Alaskan law, John will be entitled to the entire $100,000 of assets remaining, because Jane’s only surviving child is also a child of John.

Actions to Take


State Probate Laws

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State Intestacy Laws


Sample Petition for Final Distribution


Settle the Estate