An elderly uncle of mine spent the last 10 years of so in assisted living until dying in his late 90s. He has a sister (who has mild dementia) and a brother who has been not reachable for ages, along with a few nephews and nieces. Lately he has had a guardianship under the state, but our state is so underfunded that I don't think the guardian did anything. Medicaid paid at least some of his assisted living.

He died about a year ago and I assumed that the state would initiate probate (possibly so that they could get some or all of the estate to make up the medicaid expenditures). I'm not sure that his estate has positive value above what might be owed to medicaid, but I'm not sure. Well, recently I got notices that he owed taxes on his property, so I'm not sure if probate was ever started. I don't think there is a will and I'm not sure that there is any named executor.

I think I ought to initiate probate or at least see if probate has started. How do I do this? He lived in Alaska if that makes any difference.

  • 2
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    – ohwilleke
    Jul 27, 2018 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


While the state, or a creditor, can initiate a probate if no one else does (if the state does so, the official in charge of this is called the "public administrator"), neither are required to do so. Also, sometimes a guardianship is converted to a probate, but this doesn't appear to have happened.

This is a thankless job that probably doesn't make sense to bother with if estate liabilities exceed the assets of the estate, but most states have a "non-claim statute" that bars creditors claims, other than liens including property tax liens, after a certain amount of time after the death. So, even if the estate may have been insolvent at death, if enough time has elapsed, many of the potential claims may now be barred, making the estate solvent again.

Siblings generally have priority for appointment over a nephew, so to be appointed yourself, you would ordinarily have to receive a renunciation of their right to serve as executor before applying to do so yourself, but some states disregard that priority if no one has taken action after a certain period of time.

You would initiate probate by contacting an Alaska lawyer in the vicinity of the place he was domiciled at death. The lawyer can review the guardianship court file, determine if an executor was appointed, and determine if there are assets that could justify opening an estate relative to lien debts including Medicaid liens. If there are not, letting the assets be lost to a property tax lien may make more sense that spending money to transfer his property in an orderly fashion to his creditors with nothing in it for any of his family.

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