Probate is the court-overseen process by which property is transferred to a decedent’s distributees and/or heirs upon death. A distributee is any person who receives a decedent’s property other than as a purchaser or creditor, and an heir is a person entitled under Idaho’s laws of intestate succession to receive property (I.C. §§ 15-1-201(11), 15-1-201(22)). The Uniform Probate Code is codified at Title 15 of the Idaho Revised Statues.
When a property owner dies in Idaho, probate is opened in the county in which the decedent was domiciled at the time. The custodian of the will, if the decedent died testate, must deliver the document to the court to open probate. If the decedent died intestate (without a will), any interested person, as the term is defined by § 15-1-201(25), may petition the court for probate. Idaho offers options for probate openings and closings; consult a lawyer to determine which type of probate best suits the situation.
Jointly-held property or property owned by spouses as community property is not subject to probate. Idaho also recognizes transfer on death deeds, which designate a beneficiary to whom title passes, when recorded prior to the grantor’s death.
Estate administration officially commences with the appointment of a personal representative (PR) through the granting of letters by the court (§ 15-3-103). The personal representative – the fiduciary in charge of settling the decedent’s estate – may be named in the decedent’s will, or selected by the court. Priority of persons to serve as the estate’s PR is established at § 15-3-203.
Part of a personal representative’s duties in administering the estate is to make any necessary transfers of title to the decedent’s real property after the debts and valid claims on the estate have been paid. Additionally, a PR may need to sell real property from the estate to raise the required funds necessary to pay outstanding debt or to facilitate distribution of the estate among multiple beneficiaries.
When property does not transfer out of probate, the PR must execute a deed to transfer title. The type of deed required depends on the situation. A personal representative’s deed of distribution quitclaims title to heirs entitled to receive property when the decedent has died intestate (without a will).
In cases where the grantee is not an heir, the PR uses a special warranty deed. Deeds made in a representative capacity are generally named after the title of the acting fiduciary, but they are functionally equivalent to standard conveyancing documents. A special (limited) warranty deed in Idaho contains covenants that the grantor has not previously conveyed the same title, and that the estate is free from encumbrances made by or under the grantor (§ 55-612).
Each estate is unique, and administration, including the distribution of real property, may require supplemental documentation. Consult a lawyer with questions about probate in Idaho.