In addition to grieving their losses and making funeral arrangements, families must often handle the final affairs of recently deceased loved ones. Much of this occurs through the court-supervised process known as probate. A potentially extended process, not all estates require probate.
Understanding the options available for small estates for decedents without wills may help families settle the affairs of their loved ones and move forward.
Disposition of personal property
According to state law, people may use the disposition of personal property without the administration process to settle some estates. To qualify for this process, the estate must only consist of nonexempt and exempt personal property. The non-exempt property includes assets valued at not more than reasonable funeral expenses and the decedent’s final medical bills for the 60 days preceding his or her last illness. Exempt personal property includes the following:
- Certain household goods valued at up to $20,000
- Personal homestead property valued at up to $1,000
- Prepaid tuition programs
- Two qualifying automobiles
Up to $4,000 of personal property may also qualify as exempt if the decedent does not receive homestead exemption benefits.
According to state law, summary administration serves as another alternative to the formal probate process for certain estates. To qualify for this option, estates must not have values that exceed $75,000. Additionally, the estate cannot have any outstanding debts, or the creditors must not object. Summary administration may also apply to estates of those deceased for two years or more that have not undergone prior administration.
Dealing with the legalities of death may only complicate an already difficult time for the families of the decedents. However, options exist for qualifying estates that may help expedite and ease the process.