Depending on the circumstances, an estate can be opened formally and informally when starting a probate case. The main difference is the amount of court oversight and whether the court makes a formal finding of the petitioned facts.
When opening a formal case, the petitioner must send notice of their intent to be appointed as personal representative and allow a time period for potential objections before being appointed. In an informal estate, the applicant applies directly to the court and informs interested parties of their appointment after it occurs.
A formal filing is most often recommended in cases where there are factual disputes or complications and a formal finding from the court is advised. For example, it may be advisable to formally open a probate estate if the decedent executed multiple wills and there is uncertainty as to which will be followed.
In certain circumstances, a party may want to formally request the court for the administration of the estate to be supervised. Among other reasons, this is often requested when the representative’s ability or intent to administer the estate properly comes into question, but there may not yet be grounds to remove them as the acting personal representative for the estate. Estate closings can similarly be formal or informal.