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Who Supervises Probate Administration?

A common question raised during probate is "Who supervises probate administration?" In a detailed, time-consuming, and high-stakes process, it is natural for parties to question who is in charge. In most states, the answer is simple: a judge.

Role of Circuit Court Judge in Supervising Probate

A circuit court judge is the party who presides over probate administration proceedings. The judge is the one responsible for appointing the estate's personal representative. The judge issues official letters of administration. These letters of administration are the documents that demonstrate the grant of authority to the personal representative of the estate to act. The judge is empowered to conduct hearings whenever deemed necessary, as well as to resolve questions and concerns raised during estate administration. The judge uses the tool of a written order to issue directions in the estate administration process.

Supervised Probate

Supervised probate is the most formal and costly type of probate. The circuit court, and in particular, the judge, assumes a primary role in the approval of transactions throughout the estate administration process in a supervised setting. Court costs and legal fees mount quickly. Supervised probate administration is ideal in situations where the estate is contested, an interested party may make a request for it, or the executor's ability to administer the estate competently is called into question by a party.

Unsupervised Probate

Not all jurisdictions and contexts require supervised probate. There may be situations in which supervision is not needed and/or is not preferred by the parties due to its time and cost requirements. In such instances, unsupervised probate is a simpler and less costly method of probate. The number of duties and procedures during unsupervised probate is lessened. The circuit court's role is similarly reduced, if not eliminated entirely. Unsupervised probate is ideally used for estates exceeding the asset threshold for small estates, but which still do not require extensive supervision from the court. Unsupervised probate requires all beneficiaries to provide their consent in order to utilize the process unless the will requests such a method explicitly.

Small Estate Probate

Not every state allows small estate probate, but in those that do, it is the simplest and fastest procedure available. The process applies to estates of $1,000 to $100,000 in asset size. The estate's property is transferred by affidavit, and the entire process lasts just a few weeks.

Independent Administration

Independent administration is a new and popular form of probate in some states. It grants the estate's legal representative with extensive powers and permits estate administration with minor court supervision. Only two court appearances are required: one to open the estate and a second to close it. Creditors are limited to filing claims within six months, and the entire process takes about six to 10 months and requires less than $3,000.