Probate Shortcuts in Alaska

Save time and money when you wrap up a simple estate in Alaska.

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Alaska offers two probate shortcuts for "small estates."

If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, Alaska allows the property to be transferred more quickly and with less hassle. In other words, if your estate qualifies as "small," your loved ones may be able to use simplified probate procedures, or even skip probate entirely.

Collecting Property With a Small Estate Affidavit

Alaska offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. To qualify, the estate (the property you own at death) must meet these requirements:

  • the estate consists only of personal property with a total value, not including the value of vehicles, that doesn't exceed $50,000
  • vehicles with a total value that doesn't exceed $100,000 total
  • the estate doesn't include real estate, unless that real estate is transferred outside of probate (for example, because it was owned in joint tenancy or because the deceased had made a transfer-on-death deed)
  • no application or petition for appointment of personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction (so if a probate proceeding has already started, the estate won't qualify), and
  • at least 30 days have elapsed since the death.

(Alaska Stat. § 13.16.680 (2024).)

How to Use Alaska's Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property

If your estate meets the requirements listed above, all your inheritor has to do is sign a simple document under oath, called an affidavit. The Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property contains:

  • a statement that the inheritor is entitled to the property, and
  • statements that the estate meets the individual requirements discussed above.

(Alaska Stat. § 13.16.680 (2024).)

After signing the document (and swearing to its truthfulness) and having it notarized, the inheritor simply presents the affidavit to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account. The inheritor usually will need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate. After that, the person or institution transfers the property.

Simplified Probate for Small Estates (Summary Administration)

Another probate shortcut that Alaska offers is a simplified probate process for small estates, called "summary administration" (or "summary probate"). Unlike the affidavit procedure discussed above, summary administration doesn't allow your survivors to skip probate. However, the probate process is much more streamlined than full probate, saving time, probate fees, and potentially lawyer fees.

You can use summary administration in Alaska if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, doesn't exceed the value of:

  • the homestead allowance (a set amount a surviving spouse or, if there's no spouse, children are entitled to under Alaska law)
  • exempt property (a set amount of personal property, such as furniture and household items, that must be given to a surviving spouse, or if there's no spouse, children)
  • the family allowance (a set amount that a surviving spouse or children that the deceased person was supporting are entitled to while probate is ongoing)
  • costs of administration (costs of probate)
  • reasonable funeral expenses, and
  • the medical expenses of a last illness.

(Alaska Stat. § 13.16.690 (2024).)

So what does all this mean? Calculating an exact dollar amount to compare against the size of your estate can be tricky, but it really depends on your circumstances—for example, whether you leave behind a spouse or children. Some of these amounts also change frequently to match cost of living adjustments.

The bottom line is that if the size of your estate doesn't exceed these amounts, which can be set aside from your estate by law, your executor or personal representative can wrap up your estate in probate court very quickly because there aren't any remaining assets after these amounts are paid out.

How to Use Alaska's Summary Administration

To begin summary administration in Alaska, you'll have to open a probate case in probate court, just like regular probate. You'll also request to be appointed as the personal representative. However, you'll be able to skip these steps of regular probate:

  • you won't need to give notice to creditors of the probate proceeding, and
  • you won't have to wait the usual four months for any creditors to make claims, and can immediately distribute the property.

Once the court has approved, and you've distributed all of the property, you'll file a Sworn Statement of Personal Representative Closing Small Estate. You'll also send a copy of the statement to anyone who received property and interested people, along with an accounting. (Alaska Stat. § 13.16.695 (2024).)

For More Information

For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

For more on Alaska estate planning issues, see our section on Alaska Estate Planning.

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