Settling an estate can be a long and arduous process full of various twists and turns as disputes arise over how the estate should be distributed. However, this process is much more likely to be a long and difficult one when the estate itself is quite large; the larger the estate, the larger the likelihood of disputes becomes and the more elements there are to be sorted through.
But many of us don’t end up acquiring a large estate during our lifetimes. For a lot of us, we’re only going to acquire a small estate. This is where small estate affidavits come into place, as a way of speeding up the process of closing an estate. Below, we’ll take a look at what exactly defines a small estate affidavit, what the benefits of a small estate affidavit are, and how you go about filing a small estate affidavit.
What is a Small Estate Affidavit?
A small estate affidavit is a type of legal document that is used to authorize the transfer of property and/or assets from a will to the individuals they are intended for without having to go through the probate process. The probate process can be an incredibly long process, as well as a potentially expensive one, and so small estate affidavits were invented in order to reduce the amount of time and resources it takes for a beneficiary to receive their inheritance.
Generally speaking, the small estate affidavit process starts with the filling out of forms that require the individual completing them to give descriptions (including the value) of property and assets that are to be transferred, information about the deceased individual, a list of those parties interested in the estate, as well as other information that can change from state to state depending on the specific laws present.
In Tennessee, the value of the estate must be below $50,000 in order to qualify for a small estate affidavit.
When Can You Use a Small Estate Affidavit?
In order to qualify for a small estate affidavit, the estate must be worth below $50,000. In some states, this number can go as high as $150,000, but not here in Tennessee. The first step to determining if a small estate affidavit can be used is to go about valuing the property and assets of the estate to determine their total. It is also important to find out if the deceased had a last will and testament. In Tennessee, you must wait 45 days before filing a small estate affidavit.
While a small estate affidavit can be used in these circumstances, there are also circumstances in which a small estate affidavit will not be viable. Of course, what comes to mind first is cases wherein the estate is valued at more than $50,000. But even in cases where the estate’s value does come in below this threshold, other elements could prevent a small estate affidavit from working. If probate proceedings have already started then you may not use a small estate affidavit.
How Do You File a Small Estate Affidavit?
To file a small estate affidavit, you must first wait for 45 days after the decedent’s death. You’re welcome to fill out the paperwork and try to get it started before that but you’ll find that no probate court clerk will accept a small estate affidavit until after 45 days have passed so it’s better to just wait.
Next, make sure that there are no appointments or petitions outstanding for the role of the personal representative of the estate. You can find out if there are any by doing a search through the Tennessee Courts Public Case History.
The next step is to complete the paperwork required. You will need to have a copy of the decedent’s will, which you can obtain from the County and Municipal Records Archives. You will also need to fill out a small estate affidavit, which we’ll discuss in length in one moment.
Finally, once all that is complete, you have to file your paperwork with whichever probate court was considered local to the decedent’s final permanent residence. Then, as with most things, it becomes time to wait to learn how it went.
Let’s take a look at the information you’ll be required to fill out for a small estate affidavit:
- The name of the county of the circuit court
- Docket number
- Estate name
- Tennessee affiant name
- Tennessee decedent age
- Decedent date and place of death
- Residential address of decedent
- Whether a will was left
- Name of decedent’s creditors
- Address of creditors
- The amount owed to creditors
- Every asset of the decedent’s
- The location of assets
- The value of the property
- The bank account numbers for the decedent’s accounts
- Name of the next of kin
- Addresses of the next of kin
- The relationship of the next of kin to the decedent
- Age of the next of kin
- The date of when you signed the affidavit
- Your address
- Notarization of the signature
There is a lot of information that needs to be gathered in order to submit a small estate affidavit. Since you have 45 days from the date of the death to be able to file the affidavit, this window of time can be used to hunt down any of the required information that you don’t currently have.
I Still Don’t Understand Small Estate Affidavit, What Should I Do?
Estate law can be a confusing thing for people to wrap their heads around, we absolutely get it. We here at Crow Estate Planning and Probate have made it our business to understand the full scope of estate law and so we know exactly how confusing it can get.
If you are having issues understanding small estate affidavits or whether it’s the right thing to do with the specific circumstances you’re dealing with, then reach out to Crow Estate Planning and Probate. We’re always happy to help people like you determine the best course of action when it comes to settling an estate following the passing of a friend or family member.