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The Administration of a Probate Estate: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis, instructional librarian, and Robert Brammer, senior legal information specialist

We frequently receive reference requests for resources related to the administration of an estate. In this Beginner’s Guide, we will direct you to general and state-specific resources that concern probate administration. If you are interested in resources for drafting a will, please see our previous Beginner’s Guide on the subject.

Administratrix notice for estate of James Taylor and Ann Taylor, Adm'x. Newport Mercury, Newport, R.I. (July 10, 1835). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002719623/

Administratrix notice for estate of James Taylor and Ann Taylor, Adm’x. Newport Mercury, Newport, R.I. (July 10, 1835). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002719623/

General Resources

As always, we strongly recommend starting your research by finding a secondary source, like a legal treatise or journal article, on the topic.  Secondary sources provide researchers with a more succinct and comprehensible explanation of the current law than they might get from reading statutes, regulations, and cases.  They also provide citations to primary sources, so that researchers do not have to track down the documents on their own. Some helpful resources in the Library of Congress collection include:

As we have mentioned in previous Beginner’s Guides, we suggest using the WorldCat catalog to search for these, and other, resources in your area.  To locate these resources in a library near you, type the title in the WorldCat search box, and from the results page, select an entry. Finally, on the catalog entry page, scroll down to the “Find a copy in the library” section; enter your zip code (or city and country, if outside the United States); and click the “Find libraries” button to locate libraries in your area that have the resource.

You can also use subject headings in the Library of Congress catalog, the WorldCat catalog, or your local public law library’s catalog for additional resources not listed above.  Consider trying these subject headings:

  • Probate law and practice–United States–Popular works
  • Probate law and practice–United States–Forms
  • Probate law and practice–United States
  • Probate law and practice
  • Estate planning–United States–Popular works
  • Estate planning–United States–Forms
  • Estate planning–United States
  • Estate planning
  • Executors and administrators–United States–Popular works
  • Executors and administrators–United States

State-Specific Resources

You will find that most states include a probate code as one of the titles in their statutory code. You can find answers to common questions about the administration of estates under this title. Note that you will often find that there is a streamlined method of administration for estates under a certain value, which is often referred to as summary administration. You can locate a link to your state code in our Guide to Law Online.

Like some of the legal issues addressed in our previous Beginner’s Guides, this area of law can be state specific and many legal publishers have created treatises concerning probate law that are state specific for that reason. To locate additional resources that are specific to your state, please use our catalog and browse subject headings.

Some of the subject headings that may be of interest include:

  • Probate law and practice–United States–States
  • Probate law and practice–[State]
  • Probate courts–[State]
  • Estate planning–[State]
  • Executors and administrators–United States–States
  • Executors and administrators–[State]

You might also want to check with your county clerk’s office or the clerk of your local probate court to see if they have any resources that can simplify the administration of a probate estate.

If you have any questions, please use our Ask a Librarian service.

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