Probate and Your Small Estate

If you are looking to probate a small estate, there is often a simple way to complete the task. Probate laws vary greatly from state to state, but most state governments have provided easier avenues for small estate inheritances. This allows these men and women to bypass the complicated estate division of a traditional probate. In some states this means that you can skip over the transfer of property procedures. These special exceptions are called "summary procedures" and if you are inheriting a small estate, they may be the way to go. Most of these small estate probate short-cuts involve preparing an affidavit. This is a carefully prepared document that is submitted to a court for legal review. The key is where your state places the value of a "small estate." These can range from assets worth $5,000 to $100,000.

To determine if your state has special reservations for smaller estate probate cases, you will want to contact a local lawyer and research your state probate mandates. For example, in California, an executor can file a request for a simplified procedure if the estate is valued under $100,000. The court may allow the executor to distribute the small estate without having to go through the entire traditional court process. In this state, the estate in question does not include any property outside of California, life insurance, death benefits, and other assets that are not subject to probate. Also, any registered or manufactured mobile homes, joint tenacity properties, and properties that go directly to the surviving spouse are not included.

In Texas, on the other hand, an inheritor can prepare a short affidavit explaining why he or she is entitled to a certain asset, and sign the document under oath. After the court has reviewed and approved the affidavit, and returned it to the inheritor along with a death certificate, the asset requested is released. If there is no will, Texas law has a special provision where inheritors can bypass court to receive their assets. Texas considers a "small estate" to be any sum of money where the value of the property does not exceed what is needed to pay the family allowance and any debt. This is considered "independent administration" because the money will be spent on these dues when it is seized.

In Connecticut, if the total assets left by the decedent do not exceed $40,000, the case qualifies for a simple probate procedure. The transfer of tangible and intangible personal property like bank accounts, stocks, bonds, due wages, and death benefits will be passed to the surviving spouse or next of kin. This can also include any insurance proceeds and motor vehicles. The only requirement for this transfer is that the surviving spouse or next of kin file an affidavit in the probate court. In some small estate probate cases, this affidavit needs to say that the decedent's funeral expenses have been paid to the value to the assets and those assets are needed to pay for a funeral or medical bills. In this situation, the judge can confirm that no other probate proceedings are underway, and can authorize the transfer of personal property to the person who filed. In some states, any affidavit that details why you deserve to inherit certain property can be legitimized for your benefit.

To use another example, Florida allows a simplified probate procedure if the executor can prove that there is no real estate involved in the inheritance and the property is exempt from creditor's claims. The court will make an exception if creditors are seeking compensation for funeral costs or medical expenses accumulated in the past two months. Also, if the value of the estate is less than the value of the property that is exempt for creditor's claims and does not exceed $75,000 the case qualifies for simple probate. In conclusion, every state has very different ways of conducting probate issues. If you are seeking a simplified probate processes, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the proceedings and laws in your state. A probate lawyer can help you to make the best decisions concerning your probate process.