If your loved one’s assets are valued at $40,000.00 or under (after you back off liens, mortgages and expenses), those assets can be transferred through Probate Court via an expedited procedure commonly called a “Small Estate.” In that instance, an interested party completes an Affidavit for Collection of Small Estate, lists the assets, beneficiaries or heirs, and describes the property in detail along with copies of supporting documents. Those documents are filed in Probate Court.
A Probate Bond may also need to be obtained and filed. Thereafter, the Court will review the filing and issue a formal Probate Court Certificate allowing you to transfer those assets to the individuals you’ve designated in the Affidavit. A hearing or Court appearance is not required - - it is purely a paper procedure that is reviewed by the Court. This process usually takes anywhere from 1-3 months compared to the 6-12+ months that the regular Probate process takes. This Small Estate procedure can be commenced at any time 30 or more days after the date of death, is valid whether or not the individual had a Will, and can be used for all types of assets including personal property, bank accounts and even real estate. Full blown probate estates must be commenced within one year of death, but this Small Estate procedure is not subject to that deadline. It can be commenced years after death to distribute property (again, provided that its total value does not exceed $40,000.00.)
This procedure should almost always be chosen over the regular probate process as long as the estate meets the threshold amount. It is faster, less expensive, less of a burden on the beneficiaries, and just all-around easier for everyone. Unfortunately, this is not a process that the Court will let you do on your own. You must have an attorney represent you and file the necessary documents on your behalf. Our office has handled countless numbers of Small Estates and would be glad to answer any questions that you may have.