Every inheritance has to go through probate court, which lets the state account for the deceased's assets and ensure a legal transfer of ownership. Going through probate can take months, and the process is paid for by the estate, which means there may be little left over for the beneficiaries. Here's a closer look at how Alaska handles the process so that you can determine the best approach to protecting your assets.

How Does Probate Work?

If There's a Will

The will's executor presents the death certificate to the county court upon your passing. The court will examine your will to ensure its validity before granting the executor charge of gathering the remaining assets and using them to pay off any outstanding debts. The remaining amount will go to the beneficiaries according to the document's details.

Without a Will


The court will appoint the task of distributing assets to the closest surviving relative. If the entire estate is less than $100,000 of vehicles and $50,000 of personal property, the state considers it to be a small estate and won’t require court supervision. Heirs will only have to wait 30 days before collecting their inheritances.

Larger estates may require closer court involvement to settle disputes, approve selling various pieces of property, and account for each of the assets. This reduces the risk of fraud and ensures an even distribution among family members. The process can take anywhere from six to twelve months to complete.

How Can I Avoid Probate?

The easiest way to keep your money out of probate is to put it in a living trust. You’ll assign a third party as the trustee, and they’ll continue investing the amount for the benefit of the beneficiaries. This step helps you avoid probate because the assets belong to the trust, not yourself. By sidestepping the process, your relatives will receive their inheritances quickly.

Another option is to assign joint tenancy by naming another individual on an account. As co-owner, the courts will automatically recognize them as the current manager of the amount or property and won't require them to go through probate.


If you want to get your affairs in order, turn to Darryl L. Jones, Attorney at Law in Palmer, AK. Attorney Jones and his team have served clients throughout the Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna area for over 30 years. They stay updated on the state's probate regulations to understand how they can best protect their client's assets and quicken or avoid the process. Call (907) 746-9851 to schedule a consultation.