State Laws: Estates and Probate

After a person dies, the distribution of their probate property (known as their "estate") occurs in one of two ways. If a last will and testament exists, the will's terms determine the estate's distribution. However, a decedent without a will is said to have died intestate. In such cases, intestacy laws and intestate succession dictate the estate's distribution.

The Probate Process

The court-supervised process of distributing a decedent's property is generally known as probate. Probate also refers more narrowly to validating a will. A personal representative nominated in a will or appointed by a probate court carries out the probate process on the estate's behalf. The personal representative distributes the decedent's assets to family members or other beneficiaries.

Property Distribution Outside of Probate

Certain assets may transfer outside of the probate process. For example, real estate and other real property titled as a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship will transfer to the surviving joint tenant after the decedent's death.

Other assets can be subject to beneficiary designations and avoid probate. You may complete the necessary forms with financial institutions to provide for named beneficiaries for certain financial accounts. These may include:

  • Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary
  • Bank accounts with a payable on death order
  • Retirement accounts, including IRAs, with a named beneficiary

Federal tax law sometimes comes into play (e.g., federal gift and estate taxes) during estate planning and probate proceedings. However, state law governs most aspects of estate planning and probate.

State Estate and Probate Laws

Each state compiles its governing laws in "Estate Codes," "Probate Codes," etc. These laws cover a wide range of legal documents, including state laws relating to the following:

The table below provides links to estate and probate laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state name also links to FindLaw's state-specific estate planning pages, where you can find answers to common questions for your jurisdiction.

Note: The Uniform Probate Code was developed by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Uniform Law Commission to encourage consistency in estate and probate laws across the country. It has been adopted, in whole or in part, by 18 states.


Alabama Code, Title 43. Wills and Decedents' Estates


Alaska Statutes, Title 13. Decedents' Estates, Guardianships, Transfers, Trusts, and Health Care Decisions


Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 14. Trusts, Estates, and Protective Proceedings


Arkansas Code, Title 28. Wills, Estates, and Fiduciary Relationships


California Code, Probate Code — PROB


Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 15. Probate, Trusts, and Fiduciaries


Connecticut General Statutes, Title 45A. Probate Courts and Procedure


Delaware Code, Title 12. Decedents' Estates and Fiduciary Relations

District of Columbia

District of Columbia Code, Division III. Decedents' Estates and Fiduciary Relations


Florida Statutes, Title XLII. Estates and Trusts


Georgia Code, Title 53. Wills, Trusts, and Administration of Estates


Hawaii Revised Statutes, Division 3. Property; Family

  • Title 29. Decedents' Estates
  • Title 30A. Uniform Probate Code


Idaho Statutes


Illinois Compiled Statutes


Indiana Code


Iowa Code, Title XV. Judicial Branch and Judicial Procedures, Subtitle 4. Probate — Fiduciaries


Kansas Statutes, Chapter 59. Probate Code


Kentucky Revised Statutes, Title XXXIV. Descent, Wills, and Administration of Decedents' Estates



Maine Revised Statutes


Maryland Code, Estates and Trusts


Massachusetts General Laws, Part II. Real and Personal Property and Domestic Relations, Title II. Descent and Distribution, Wills, Estates of Deceased Persons and Absentees, Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Trusts


Michigan Compiled Laws


Minnesota Statutes, Probate; Property; Estates; Guardianships; Anatomical Gifts


Mississippi Code, Title 91. Trusts and Estates


Missouri Revised Statutes, Title XXXI. Trusts and Estates of Decedents and Persons Under Disability


Montana Code Annotated, Title 72. Estates, Trusts, and Fiduciary Relationships


Nebraska Revised Statutes, Chapter 30. Decedents' Estates; Protection of Persons and Property


Nevada Revised Statutes

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Statutes, LVI: Probate Courts and Decedents' Estates

Note: This link leads to the New Hampshire Statutes compiled by the General Court of New Hampshire.

New Jersey

New Jersey Statutes

New Mexico

New Mexico Statutes

New York

New York Consolidated Laws, Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law — EPT

North Carolina

North Carolina General Statutes

North Dakota

North Dakota Century Code


Ohio Revised Code, Title XXI. Courts-Probate-Juvenile


Oklahoma Statutes

Note: These links lead to the Oklahoma Statutes compiled by the Oklahoma State Legislature.


Oregon Revised Statutes, Title 12. Probate Law


Pennsylvania Statutes

Rhode Island

Rhode Island General Laws, Title 33. Probate Practice and Procedure

South Carolina

South Carolina Code of Laws

Note: These links lead to the South Carolina Code of Laws compiled by the South Carolina Legislature. The compilation is available in HTML and Word.

South Dakota

South Dakota Codified Laws

Note: These links lead to the South Dakota Codified Laws compiled by the South Dakota State Legislature.


Tennessee Code


Texas Estates Code — EST


Utah Code


Vermont Statutes


Virginia Code, Title 64.2. Wills, Trusts, and Fiduciaries


Washington Revised Code, Title 11. Probate and Trust Law

West Virginia

West Virginia Code


Wisconsin Statutes


Wyoming Statutes, Title 2. Wills, Decedents' Estates, and Probate Code

Need Help Planning Your Estate?

Estate planning can be manageable, especially with a relatively small estate. FindLaw's estate planning pages and do-it-yourself tools may help you save time and money.

That said, most laws governing estate planning and administration exist at the state level. A local estate planning attorney can be an important ally and provide critical legal advice. Whether you are making plans for your estate or have questions about the estate of a deceased loved one, an attorney can help.

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