The person who files a lawsuit must notify other parties to the action so they can protect their rights. For probate proceedings, including a request to probate a will or determine heirs of an estate for which no will has been found, interested parties would include the decedent's heirs and creditors. Each of these parties have the right to receive notice, from a process server, in advance of scheduled hearings, but some may instead prefer to sign a Waiver of Citation. This form is also called a Waiver of Service or Waiver of Notice, depending on the state where the probate action has been filed.
Probate courts generally deal with legal matters relating to wills and estates, but some states assign other matters to these courts as well. Large counties in Texas, for example, have designated probate courts that handle only wills, estates and guardianships, while smaller counties submit these cases to the county courts that also handle criminal and family law cases. In Massachusetts, the probate and family law courts handle divorces, adoptions, guardianships, wills and estates. If you receive a document from a probate court, be certain you understand the type of case involved.
Service of Citation
An individual or business that files a lawsuit is obligated to notify all concerned parties that a court action has been commenced. State laws vary on how this notification must be given, but generally, the parties may be notified in writing by personal service or certified mail. If a party's whereabouts are unknown, the court may permit the person filing the lawsuit to publish notice in a local newspaper or post it at the courthouse.
Read More: What Is a Waiver of Citation in a Divorce Case?
Waiver of Citation
Anyone with a potential interest in a probate case or other legal action may advise the court, in writing, that he does not wish to be notified of hearings in the case. Usually, the person filing the lawsuit will attach a “Waiver of Citation” form to a copy of the case documents and the interested party will be instructed to sign and return the signed document to the court.
Waiver of Citation Probate
Most waivers of citation in probate simply state the interested party has received notice of the lawsuit and does not wish to receive further notice of hearings. It is important to read the title of the document and its contents carefully because some waivers also include a clause expressing your agreement with the appointment of a certain person as guardian or estate administrator. Be sure you understand the nature of the proceedings and potential effect on your rights before signing the waiver.
If you sign the waiver, you may still attend hearings if you wish, but you won't receive notices and the judge will be able to make a decision without your input. If, for example, your mother wants to submit your father's will for probate and you do not object to her being appointed as the administrator, you may find it appropriate to sign the waiver. On the other hand, if you feel that you or another person would be a better choice for administrator, you should file an answer to the lawsuit and appear at the hearings. In Texas and some other states, you may appear in court without an attorney if you are representing solely your own rights, but you must hire an attorney if you also intend to represent the rights of your siblings or other parties.
Marcy Brinkley has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," "Texas Health Law Reporter" and the "State Bar of Texas Health Law Section Report." Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing; a Master of Business Administration; and a Doctor of Jurisprudence.