Losing a loved one can be extremely tough, however it’s made even harder when forms aren't in order and personal possessions and property have to be divided in a messy fashion. Normally, the probate process oversees this distribution and awards property to creditors and heirs. However, the court’s probate’s supervision can complicate things and the whole process can be complicated and stressful for loved ones. For this reason, the Small Estate Affidavit was created.
In its essence, the Small Estate Affidavit is a much more simple process of transferring assets and estate to the beneficiaries without the need for formal probate. Normally, the following circumstances would see the Small Estate Affidavit drawn up;
• Firstly, you could be named as an executor for an estate. If this estate meets the requirements under state law, the Small Estate Affidavit could come into play.
• Secondly, a family member or spouse could pass away without having a will. In this scenario, the assets might meet the necessary requirements under state law.
Of course, losing someone is already a hard time in life so a Small Estate Affidavit can reduce the stress of probate and simply reduce the paperwork and the delay in the court process.
Requirements - With all this being said, one of the key questions is ‘what constitutes a ‘small estate’’? In truth, different states have different values and they can vary greatly. Whilst Vermont has a value of up to $275,000, Georgia limits it to just $10,000. In Arizona however, it is middle ground between those two examples at $75,000 for personal property. However, a value of $100,000 can be passed through the process if all taxes and debts have already been paid. For example, $100,000 with no mortgages or any other liens attached could pass through.
How to Start - Firstly, you will need to get a valuation of the estate to assess whether or not you will be able to fill in the relevant Small Estate Affidavit form. If the estate falls within the requirements, you can fill in the form even if you live in a different state to the deceased.
When filling in the form, you will need a whole host of information and personal details including your name, address, a list of assets and their values, information regarding the deceased, names and addresses of other surviving relations, unpaid debts or any other claims, confirmation that the funeral has been paid for already, and more. As the Small Estate Affidavit is independent, you will need to provide all the relevant information so they can then push the process forwards and assess the information.
As soon as you have finished the form, you will need to file it in the court jurisdiction of the deceased and where the property is located. From here, you will soon hear back and the process will begin. As mentioned previously, this is often a much preferred solution as it is easier and less stressful than court proceedings.