If you are responsible for distributing someone’s property after they die, it is important to understand the kind of estate you need to distribute. If you are dealing with a small estate, you may be able to avoid traditional probate proceedings. There are different ways an estate can be administered depending on the value of the estate. An estate valued under a certain amount is defined by law as a small estate. Most small estates can be distributed with a simpler process. Any estate that is over that value is usually distributed with a traditional probate process.
Whether an estate is small depends on how much it is worth. The dollar limit can change each year. If a person dies in 2023, an estate must be valued at $27,000 or less to be small. If a person died in 2022, an estate must be valued at $25,000 or less. If a person died in 2020 or 2021, an estate must be valued at $24,000 or less. If a person dies in 2019 or 2018, an estate must be valued at $23,000 or less. If a person died in 2014-2017, an estate must be valued at $22,000 or less.
Most small estates can be distributed with a small estate process. The small estate processes are called assignment of property and transfer by affidavit. An even simpler process can work if the person who died only left a car, personal property, or wages from a job.
To learn more about distributing assets from a small estate, go to Distributing a Small Estate without Using a Will.
All Other Estates
If an estate is worth more than $27,000, the small estates processes are not available. These estates are usually distributed with a traditional probate process. Traditional probate proceedings can be informal or formal, supervised or unsupervised. To learn more about informal and formal probate, read An Overview of Informal Probate and An Overview of Formal Probate. To learn more about supervised and unsupervised probate, read Supervised and Unsupervised Probate Administration.
To learn more about distributing someone’s assets with a traditional probate proceeding, go to Distributing a Larger Estate or an Estate with a Will.
Distributing property after someone dies can be complex. You may want to talk to a lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find a lawyer or legal services in your area.