One of the most frequently asked questions I get asked is whether there a simple method to probate a small estate?
The answer is YES.
If the total assets left by a decedent in his or her name alone do not exceed $40,000 and do not include real estate, a simpler small estate procedure can be used. The decedent may own assets exceeding $40,000 if they are in joint name(survivorship) and still qualify for this small estates. This process is effective for transferring assets, such as bank accounts, shares of corporate stock, bonds, unpaid wages, death benefits, insurance proceeds or motor vehicles.
To use the small estate procedure, the surviving spouse, next of kin or other person files what is called an “Affidavit in Lieu of Probate of Will/Administration,” form PC-212, listing the decedent’s solely owned assets, funeral expenses, expenses associated with settling the estate, taxes and the decedent’s debts.
Once approved, the judge will authorize the transfer of assets to reimburse the person who paid the expenses and debts or, if the assets are needed to pay outstanding expenses or debts, directly to the person(s) entitled to payment. We sometimes use this where a client has all but one or two assets in a living trust, or for a late discovered insurance policy as long as the total assets are under $40,000.
Even for small estates, a Connecticut estate tax return is still required.