What happens to the EVOS claim of someone who has died?
If a claimant has died and the EQSF has not been notified, we will make the payment in the name of the deceased person. Because that person is no longer alive, in most instances it will not be possible to cash the check. Generally, in order for the check to be cashed, a probate (explained below) will have to be opened.
If the EQSF has been notified that a claimant has died, we need legal documentation that verifies in whose name, and under what taxpayer identification number, the check should be made. In most cases, the documentation required includes a certified copy of the death certificate, a W-9 for the estate, and specific probate documents (see below). However, there are instances where probate is not required if the EVOS claims are the Estate’s only asset. If you are uncertain or have any questions, please contact an estate planning lawyer at your cost or you may contact the EQSF here.
What is probate?
Probate is a court supervised legal process that allows for the proper transfer of a deceased’s persons assets (their estate) to the rightful beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are those who will inherit the deceased person’s assets and are either named in the will or are identified by statute. After the debts of the estate have been paid and the assets distributed, the probate is closed by preparing and filing documentation with the court.
In probate, a personal representative is appointed by the court through a document called Letters Testamentary or Letter of Administration (Letters). The EQSF requires that this document be dated within the last 12 months, and if the probate remains open but has a date greater than 12 months that the Letters must be recertified by the court (e.g. a new date stamp is put on the Letters).
How do you start the Probate process and what are the costs?
The expenses involved in probate include court costs, publication of notice to creditors in a newspaper and if you choose to use an attorney, attorney fees. In Alaska the current court filing fee is $150 to open a probate. The publication fee varies according to what newspaper is used but is around $180. Attorney fees for most probates also vary but start at around $1,000 and increase with the complexity of the probate.
Though there may be initial out of pocket expenses of probate, the expenses are paid from liquid assets (if any) in the deceased’s estate, for example the bank accounts, sale of the real property and the EVOS claim.
What if the probate has been closed?
In instances where the Estate’s probate was closed without dealing with the EVOS claims, the probate will need to be re-opened and new legal documents submitted to the EQSF in order to pay the Estate’s claims. This would not apply if the claims were validly assigned while the probate was open.
What are payment options for the claims?
Probate law in Alaska has recently changed and now allows for an heir or devisee to collect up to $50,000 in personal property via an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property. In most cases (there are exceptions, so please see below), this affidavit will be sufficient to distribute the settlement award to the heirs or devisees. In those instances, we would need the following documentation:
- Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property
- Copy of Death Certificate
- W-9 for the Estate
For a copy of the Affidavit to be sent to you, please call the Court System Administration in Anchorage at 907-264-8232 or visit www.state.ak.us/courts/forms/p-110.pdf to print the form yourself.
The EQSF will not be able to accept the new Affidavit if an Estate has already entered probate proceedings. In those instances, if an estate has gone through probate, the probate must remain open as the EQSF will make check out to the Estate, c/o the Personal Representative. It is the Personal Representative who is in charge of disbursing the money according to a will, etc. The Personal Representative may also choose to elect the option for direct deposit.
- Certified copy of the Death Certificate.
- Letters Testamentary (and Acceptance) OR Letters Administration (and Acceptance) dated within 12 months.
- If you have submitted a copy of Letters Testamentary or Letters Administration more than 1 year ago and the probate is still open, please send the EQSF a copy of the Letters that has been certified by the court showing the probate remains open.
- If you have previously submitted Letters Testamentary or Letters Administration and the probate is now closed, probate will need to be re-opened and current Letters Testamentary or Letters Administration should be sent to the EQSF.
- Note: If the Personal Representative was appointed in a state other than Alaska, we also need an Affidavit of Non-Resident Personal Representative per AS 13.21.015 and 13.21.025.
- A Valid Estate Identification Number (EIN) which can be obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (Form SS-4) and is not the same as the Social Security number of the deceased or the Estate Administrator.
- A completed W-9 tax form for the estate with a valid EIN.
For many reasons it may be more optimal to assign the Estate’s claims directly to its beneficiaries so that the probate can be closed and the payment goes directly to the beneficiaries. It is best to consult with your tax advisor on the tax liability of doing an assignment. After the EQSF has received all of the necessary probate documents as well as a valid assignment by the Personal Representative, the claims will then be paid directly to the beneficiaries. If an assignee would like the option of doing direct deposit, you must request a direct deposit form from the EQSF.
Please send all documentation for the estate to our office at the following address:
Exxon Qualified Settlement Fund
Attn: Estate Information
P.O. Box 21945
Seattle, WA, 98111-9808
*The EQSF does not provide legal or tax advice to any particular claimant, and this information about estates is not intended to constitute legal or tax advice. It is intended to be informational, only, for general purposes with respect to EQSF claims. Claimants and/or interested parties should consult with an attorney and/or tax advisor of their choice for legal or tax advice particular to their claim or interest.