New Mexico Probate With & Without a Will

The Probate Process in New Mexico

Probate is a legal process that occurs when a person dies. The purpose of probate is to identify and distribute the assets of a person who has died. The court appoints a person (often called a personal representative or an executor) to administer the estate. It is that person’s job to identify the assets of the estate (by preparing an inventory), pay any allowable debts of the estate, and distribute the remainder to the correct beneficiaries according to the will and the law. The details of the process differ depending on whether or not there is a will.

Probate is not always required

Probate is not always necessary. In fact, it is generally a good idea to set up your assets to avoid probate. Tools such as payable on death accounts, joint tenancy or transfer on death deeds, and beneficiary designations are all popular ways to distribute assets on death without the hassle of probate.

When is probate necessary?

First, probate will always be necessary there is a will. A court must approve the will before anyone can distribute estate assets according to the will’s terms. Second, probate is often necessary whenever the decedent had assets that did not pass automatically on death.

New Mexico Probate Information

Probate With a Will

In many ways, probate is simpler when there is a will. Most wills will nominate an executor to carry out the terms of the will. And, of course, they will explain how the decedent wishes his or her estate to be distributed. So the will answers the questions of who should be the personal representative and how the property should be distributed. In that case, the person who is nominated to be the personal representative should apply to probate the will. Once this happens, that person’s job is to administer the estate in accordance with the will and the law.

Of course, things do not always do smoothly. Relatives or people named in the will may fight over things like whether the will is valid, which will should be accepted (if there are more than one), what the will means, and many other things. If that happens, you may need an attorney who can handle your will contest.

Probate Without a Will

If your loved one did not prepare a will, then the beginning of the probate process is a little different. The first step is still to appoint a personal representative. Since there is no will to identify who that should be, the law defines groups of people who may serve, as well as which of those groups are preferred. Anyone in one of those groups may apply to be a personal representative.

Once a personal representative is appointed, he or she must determine the assets and debts of the estate, just as if there was a will. However, since there is no will to say who should receive what, the law again steps in to define who will inherit. Those people are called “heirs.” After the allowable debts are paid, the heirs split what is left equally. However, since an estate often contains both money and property, the personal representative may still need to make difficult decisions about who receives what.

How long does a New Mexico probate take?

A New Mexico probate is not fast, but it does not have to be slow. For many estates, the process of preparing an inventory and identifying debts can comfortably be done within several months. A final distribution can happen shortly thereafter; however, no distribution can be made until at least six months after the appointment of the personal representative. Of course, if the estate is complex, or if there are disagreements or litigation, the process will take longer.

Affordable Fees


Simple uncontested probate administration starting at $2,999*

*plus tax and expenses


Fair, easy-to-understand hourly rates and billing arrangements for complicated matters


Flexible payment and billing options