Probate for Smaller Estates

Very modest estates are often subject to a minimized probate process. For example, if a decedent’s total assets do not exceed $40,000 of value, an “affidavit of small estate” may be able to be filed with the probate court. With this process, much of probate’s formality is dispensed and the process is typically shorter and less costly than full probate. It is important to note that the $40,000 maximum applies only to assets that are part of the probate estate (whereas trust assets, life insurance proceeds and some other accounts are often not part of the probate estate). In some situations, additional options may also be available that could be even simpler—such as seeking a “creditor’s refusal of letters” or “spousal refusal of letters.” There are also situations where filing a petition for “determination of heirship” is appropriate and may allow for an expedited process through the probate court. When undertaking estate planning, our goal is almost always to avoid probate completely. However, when confronted with situations where probate is needed, we are committed to handling it as quickly and smoothly as possible.