What is the difference between formal and informal probate?

Informal probate is the most cost effective, and easiest, way to administer a probate estate. Informal probate allows the estate to be probated through an administrative process without any court involvement and no court hearings. The estate is opened by an application and can be opened the day that the application is filed, or within a few days. Informal probate is appropriate when there is an original will and there is no contest over the validity of the will. If the person died without a will, you can still proceed with informal probate if there is no dispute regarding the identity of the heirs.

Formal probate means that the estate must be opened by filing a petition for a hearing before the probate court and can mean continued involvement of the court. Once a petition has been filed, a hearing will be scheduled by the court anywhere from two weeks to a month after the paperwork is filed. Formal probate is necessary if the decedent left a will but the original will cannot be located. Formal probate is also necessary if there is a dispute over the validity of the will or where there are competing wills. When a decedent did not leave a will but there is a dispute over the identity of the heirs, for example, a child born outside of a marriage, formal probate is required to settle the identity of the heirs.