How Probate Laws Work in North Dakota

When a person dies, it takes some time for the grieving process to be completed. However, there are some things that can’t wait until then. The estate of the deceased person must be dealt with and the assets dispersed as instructed by the will.

Probate is the legal process of distributing the assets of the estate. The court has the job of overseeing the dispersion of the estate. If you’re involved in any way, it is beneficial to understand the basics of the probate process and the laws for North Dakota.

Is Probate Required in North Dakota?

The simple answer is “yes,” probate is usually required in North Dakota. However, there are exceptions where an estate may not need to go through probate for the heirs to gain access to the assets.

How Do You Avoid Probate in North Dakota?

The best way to avoid probate in North Dakota is by placing the estate in a revocable living trust. This type of trust allows the owner to make changes and maintain control over the assets. The beneficiaries would receive the estate after that person is deceased.

Assets that automatically transfer to a beneficiary don’t need to go through probate. For instance, checking and savings accounts with someone named as payable on death would not have to be part of probate. Life insurance policies, securities and retirement accounts work the same way if they have beneficiaries listed.

Can an Executor of an Estate in North Dakota be Compensated?

North Dakota law does provide for executors to be compensated for their time and expenses. They can also receive payment for any professionals they hire, such as an accountant or attorney.

How Much Does an Executor in North Dakota Get Paid?

The North Dakota code Title 30.1-18-19 provides information on the compensation for the personal representative. According to the code, they are entitled to reasonable compensation, but it doesn’t give an amount or process of determining the amount. If the will names a payment, the representative may accept or reject it. They can also petition the court for a reasonable payment, which will be decided based on the size of the estate and how much work they had to do.

How Long Does Probate in North Dakota Take?

The timeline for probate will vary in North Dakota, depending on the size of the estate and whether the informal or formal process is necessary. Expect it to take at least four to six months at minimum, but don’t be surprised if it takes at least a year. If there are other delays or someone contests the will, the process can be extended even longer.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in North Dakota?

Most estates will need to go through probate unless they have been put in a trust. Some assets may not need to be included in probate if they have a named beneficiary. However, North Dakota does allow for an informal probate process which is a simplified version. If the value of the estate is less than $50,000, probate may be avoided. The small estate administration just requires an affidavit. The simplified probate or informal probate process allows the personal representative to manage the estate without the need for a hearing or for oversight from the court. To qualify for a small estate, the value must be less than the homestead amount, funeral expenses and other allowed bills to be paid.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in North Dakota?

A will must be filed in North Dakota with the court in the county where the decedent lived. This allows the court to enter the will into records and determine the validity of the will, especially if there are any disputes.

Settling an Estate in North Dakota

Settling an estate in North Dakota is much the same as with any other state. The steps are similar, but the deadlines and other details may differ. It’s important to know the requirements of probate for North Dakota to ensure you meet all timelines. Here are the basic steps to follow to complete the probate process.

While these steps sound simple, they can be quite complicated, especially in a large estate. Even though the state doesn’t require an attorney, it can be helpful to work with an estate attorney for the more complex situations.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in North Dakota?

Probate must be filed within three years of the decedent’s death to qualify for an affidavit or for informal probate. If more time has lapsed, the estate must go through formal probate.

Probate Court in North Dakota

The district court handles probate in North Dakota. Each of the 53 counties has a district court service, but there are eight judicial districts. You can find out which district court rules over the county where the decedent lived by visiting thee State of North Dakota Courts website: North Dakota Court System – Court Locations (

Probate Code in North Dakota

North Dakota is one of the few states that has adopted the Uniform Probate Code to simplify the process. It is listed under the North Dakota Century Code under Title 30.1. This code covers wills and estates. You can find the code on the North Dakota Legislative Branch website: North Dakota Century Code (