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Estate Planning: Formal or Informal Probate and Small Estate

If you want to distribute your loved one's property, you have three methods from which to choose: formal probate, informal probate, and the small-estate affidavit in the estate planning process.

The small-estate affidavit is the quickest, cheapest, and simplest method, but small-estate procedure is not available to probate estates of more than $50,000.00, after deducting liens and encumbrances. Please note that the probate estate does not include most life insurance proceeds, payable-on-death designations, or property owned in joint tenancies with a right of survivorship. You cannot use the small-estate affidavit if someone has already filed for informal or formal probate.

Informal probate is more expensive and time-consuming than the small-estate procedure, but probate is usually necessary to transfer real property. Informal probate requires the submission of documents to the probate registrar in the county in which the decedent last lived. The filing fee is approximately $325, and the applicant must also publish the notice of informal probate for two weeks in a legal newspaper.

Formal probate is the most expensive and time-consuming option but is necessary when an interested party challenges the decedent's will. Formal probate requires the same filing fee and publication as informal probate, and the petitioner must also appear in court to present her/his case as to why the proffered will is valid.

Contact the attorneys at Burns & Hansen, P.A. to discuss your probate and estate planning options by calling 952-564-6262 or via e-mail at [email protected]

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