When someone passes away, they will usually have a will that determines who inherits their property and possessions. In some cases, they may not have a will, and a descendant may wish to claim ownership they believe is owed to them. If the property of the deceased is small enough, it won’t be required to go through a formal probate process. Instead, a Small Estate Affidavit Form is submitted to claim the property.
Also referred to as an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property, this is a legal document that one would use to have the property transferred to them without having to go through the expense of a probate process. It is used to grant authority to someone, such as a beneficiary or will executor, to take responsibility or transfer the responsibility of the deceased’s possessions and property. This would include possessions, such as jewelry, bank accounts, vehicles, and artwork that were owned by the deceased.
The user of the affidavit then has it within their remit to determine how the deceased’s assets will be managed or distributed to any beneficiaries. It also makes that person responsible for paying off debts that the dead may still have.
The affidavit is also a right way for the children or spouse of the deceased to take possession of their property right away, without having to go through the long and drawn out probate period. The value of the estate must be under a set amount, as determined by each state, to be considered a “small estate.” This is generally between $100,000 and 150,000.
What is a Small Estate Affidavit Form?
This is a form that you will use to list any parties involved, the property in question to be transferred, and any other important, relevant information. The affidavit itself will usually be sent to whoever is currently holding the property in the matter, which orders them to release the property at a given date and time.
How to use a Small Estate Affidavit Form
Each state will require that beneficiaries or family members wait a specified time frame before filing the small estate affidavit. This can be anywhere between 15 to 60 days. It is meant to allow the descendants of the deceased to go through and itemize their property and assets. They can then determine the deceased’s net worth to determine if it falls under the small estate classification.
Documents will then need to be gathered, including a death certificate, and title of all properties owned by the deceased. The affidavit form can then be filled out. It’s essential to make sure you have the version of the affidavit form specific to your state to avoid delays.
The form should have an itemized list of all property and assets that are to be transferred and to who they are being transported. In most cases, the form needs to be signed in the presence of a witness, a notary public, or both.
At this stage, anyone who is considered to be entitled to any of the assets and property of the deceased is contacted and made aware that a small estate affidavit is being filed. This needs to be done via Certified Mail and requires a return receipt as proof that notification was given.
The small estate affidavit form, as well as any necessary documents and payment for the filing fee, is delivered to the Probate Court Clerk’s office. Once the form has been accepted, it can take between 5 to 15 days for the court to process the form and make a decision as to whether to accept it or reject it.
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Small Estate Affidavit Forms by State
The Small Estate Affidavit, once accepted, can be used to demand that property currently being held by a person, bank, or company, be handed over, or have assets transferred as stated by the affidavit. If they refuse to do so, they can be legally prosecuted. Once everything has been transferred, the person it was transferred to has complete control over what happens to the estate.
Frequently Asked Questions
The clerk’s filing fee tends to be around $350, but this may vary from state to state.
This depends on how complicated the situation is. While you can fill out and submit the Small Estate Affidavit Form yourself, it can be beneficial to have legal advice in case any issues come up.
It can generally take between 5 to 15 days, depending on the complexity of the estate assets.