Get probate authorized in court

Settle the Estate

Once all required paperwork (e.g. death certificate, will, petition for probate) has been submitted to probate court a hearing may be held to determine if the will is valid (as determined by state law).

Typically, the hearing involves providing the judge with a notarized or sworn statement, or court testimony from a witness, along with a copy of the will.

A hearing also allows other surviving family, beneficiaries, or heirs to raise objections about the will or named executor.

When approved, the court will provide documents to the executor to authorize the management of the estate. these documents are known as letters testamentary or letters of administration.

Learn more about how probate works and how to settle an estate by answering the questions below.

Helpful Tips


If no will exists, the probate court will need to appoint an administrator of the estate.

Typically, this person is a family member of the deceased.

The state laws that govern this process are known as laws of intestate succession or intestacy.

State law will determine which paperwork is required to start the probate process, the order in which family members will be appointed administrator of the estate, and how the probate process will move forward.

Once all required paperwork has been submitted to probate court, a hearing may be called to appoint the administrator.

A hearing also allows other surviving family, beneficiaries, and heirs to raise objections or request that they be appointed administrator.

After objections have been settled, and the administrator appointed, the court will provide documents to authorize the management of the estate.

These documents are known as letters of administration.


Wills are important legal documents that affect the rights of both people and property.

Most states require that wills fulfill certain requirements to prove that the will was official, valid, and made when the creator of the will was in their right mind, and free of coercion from others.

State law outlines the requirements for a valid will.

In most states, this means the will was signed, dated, and witnessed by at least two neutral third parties (such as a notary and an attorney) who are not named in the will.

When neutral parties witness the signing of a will it helps to show that the creator of the will was not under coercion from other parties, and understood what they were doing when the will was created.

A will that was created with the assistance of a lawyer is more likely to be valid than a will handwritten by the deceased (called a holographic will).

If the deceased had a holographic, or handwritten, will, it may be wise to speak with an estate attorney to determine if the will is valid.

Common requirements for a valid will

  • The will is in writing (typewritten is preferable to handwritten, as handwritten wills could be easily altered)
  • The person who made the will signed and dated it
  • There were at least two adult witnesses who also signed the will and dated it

If the will is legally valid in the state where the deceased lived, it will guide the probate process.

The probate court (also referred to as “surrogate’s” and “orphan’s” court) will typically authorize the executor named in the will to administer the estate, and allow the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.

Personal Considerations


Did the deceased have a Will?


The will needs to be submitted to the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

The probate court will confirm whether the will was valid, and if so, the will will guide the legal probate process.

If the will names an executor, the executor will need to file an application called the petition for probate of will, along with the will and a certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate.

This is the process for getting probate authorized in court if the deceased had a will.

Contact the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived for further instructions.

The clerk of the probate court will likely provide paperwork that is needed to get probate authorized in court (and begin the legal probate process).


The estate will be administered and settled according to state probate laws.

To begin the legal probate process, a family member or attorney acting on behalf of the estate should contact the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

The clerk of the probate court will provide instructions for getting probate authorized in court, as well as necessary paperwork.

They will ask for a certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate to start to the probate process.

Probate courts usually provide fill-in-the-blank forms to make the probate process easier.

Once probate is authorized, the court will appoint an administrator of the estate.

This person will be responsible for settling the estate, paying bills and debts of the deceased out of estate funds, and giving the deceased’s assets to their heirs and beneficiaries.

If the state needs to appoint an administrator, individuals are typically prioritized in the following order:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Siblings of the deceased
  • Grandchildren of the deceased
  • The deceased’s next of kin (as defined by state law)
  • Additional persons, such as an attorney

If the deceased had a will:

The will needs to be submitted to the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

The probate court will confirm whether the will was valid, and if so, the will will guide the legal probate process.

If the will names an executor, the executor will need to file an application called the petition for probate of will, along with the will and a certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate.

This is the process for getting probate authorized in court if the deceased had a will.

Contact the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived for further instructions.

The clerk of the probate court will likely provide paperwork that is needed to get probate authorized in court (and begin the legal probate process).

If the deceased did not have a will:

The estate will be administered and settled according to state probate laws.

To begin the legal probate process, a family member or attorney acting on behalf of the estate should contact the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

The clerk of the probate court will provide instructions for getting probate authorized in court, as well as necessary paperwork.

They will ask for a certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate to start to the probate process.

Probate courts usually provide fill-in-the-blank forms to make the probate process easier.

Once probate is authorized, the court will appoint an administrator of the estate.

This person will be responsible for settling the estate, paying bills and debts of the deceased out of estate funds, and giving the deceased’s assets to their heirs and beneficiaries.

If the state needs to appoint an administrator, individuals are typically prioritized in the following order:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Siblings of the deceased
  • Grandchildren of the deceased
  • The deceased’s next of kin (as defined by state law)
  • Additional persons, such as an attorney

Is there more than one will?


Typically, the most recent will is the one that will guide the probate process, unless the deceased was not of sound mind (not competent to make legal decisions) when they created that will.

If more than one will exists, and there is a question as to which will should apply, contact an estate attorney for guidance.

While not required by law, an estate attorney can help determine which will is valid and respond to any objections raised over the will.


The original will will need to be validated in probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

This means the individuals who witnessed the signing of the will may have to attend a hearing and testify in probate court that the will was valid.

In some counties and states, the individuals who witnessed the signing of the will may just have to submit a sworn statement (signed in front of a notary) verifying that they witnessed the signing of the deceased’s will.

Contact the probate office in the county and state where the deceased lived for instructions on submitting and validating the deceased’s will.

It may also be wise to notify the will’s witnesses that they may have to testify in probate court regarding the validity of the will.


If there is more than one will:

Typically, the most recent will is the one that will guide the probate process, unless the deceased was not of sound mind (not competent to make legal decisions) when they created that will.

If more than one will exists, and there is a question as to which will should apply, contact an estate attorney for guidance.

While not required by law, an estate attorney can help determine which will is valid and respond to any objections raised over the will.

If there is only one will:

The original will will need to be validated in probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

This means the individuals who witnessed the signing of the will may have to attend a hearing and testify in probate court that the will was valid.

In some counties and states, the individuals who witnessed the signing of the will may just have to submit a sworn statement (signed in front of a notary) verifying that they witnessed the signing of the deceased’s will.

Contact the probate office in the county and state where the deceased lived for instructions on submitting and validating the deceased’s will.

It may also be wise to notify the will’s witnesses that they may have to testify in probate court regarding the validity of the will.


Are there a significant number of heirs?


The heirs will have to agree that the submitted will was valid.

The heirs will also have to approve of the executor named in the will or the administrator appointed by the probate court.

If the deceased’s heirs are not identified in the deceased’s will, state law will determine who the deceased’s heirs are.

In general, heirs are individuals who are related by blood to the deceased.

Common Heirs:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Grandchildren of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased
  • The deceased’s next of kin (defined by state law)

The heirs will still need to approve of the executor named in the will or administrator appointed by the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

Heirs, as well as creditors of an estate, have the right to object to the executor or administrator, or the validity of the will.

Contact any heirs named by the deceased’s will or state law and notify them who has been appointed executor or administrator.

Let them know when probate is to be authorized in court.


If there are a significant number of heirs:

The heirs will have to agree that the submitted will was valid.

The heirs will also have to approve of the executor named in the will or the administrator appointed by the probate court.

If the deceased’s heirs are not identified in the deceased’s will, state law will determine who the deceased’s heirs are.

In general, heirs are individuals who are related by blood to the deceased.

Common Heirs:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Grandchildren of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased
  • The deceased’s next of kin (defined by state law)
If there are not a significant number of heirs:

The heirs will still need to approve of the executor named in the will or administrator appointed by the probate court in the county and state where the deceased lived.

Heirs, as well as creditors of an estate, have the right to object to the executor or administrator, or the validity of the will.

Contact any heirs named by the deceased’s will or state law and notify them who has been appointed executor or administrator.

Let them know when probate is to be authorized in court.

Providers to Contact


Probate Attorneys Near You

Probate attorneys help settle a deceased person’s estate. They can ensure the Executor files the correct documents and all court procedures are followed.

No results in your area.


Settle the Estate