My mother died without a will leaving only a brokerage account with a balance of $22,000.00. My brother and I are the only heirs. I have heard that there is an expedited proceeding in the Surrogate’s Court to handle small estates. Can you tell me about it?
It is important to note that not all estates requires a complex probate or administration proceeding. The small estate also known as a voluntary administration proceeding is a simplified Surrogate’s Court procedure available if the decedent passed away after January 1, 2009 and had $30,000 or less in personal property. The proceeding cannot be used if the decedent died owning real property held solely in his/her name. If the decedent had conveyed most property to a trust but there remains some property titled outside of the trust, the small estate proceeding may also be available to collect those assets. The small estate is available if the decedent died with or without a Will.
The person who files the “Affidavit of Voluntary Administration” and asks to be appointed as Voluntary Administrator is either the nominated executor in the decedent’s Will or the closest living relative if the decedent died without a Will. The person filing the Affidavit is asking the Court to let them collect the assets of the decedents, pay any debts of the decedent and distribute the decedent’s property to people who have a legal right to inherit.
The small estate proceeding is less complex then a full probate or administration proceeding because consent does not have to be given by the distributees of the decedent. This can avoid a long and drawn out dispute over the Will or the appointment of a fiduciary in a full probate or administration proceeding.
While the Voluntary Administration proceeding is less complex than a full probate or administration proceeding, it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced Trust and Estate’s attorney to ensure that the voluntary administration proceeding is the best way to proceed.
By: Nancy Burner, Esq. and Kera Reed, Esq.