When a person dies, everything he owns -- his assets -- minus everything he owes -- his debts, liens or loans -- equals his net estate. Not everyone has a large net estate. In the United States, almost all 50 states and the District of Columbia have probate laws that allow either heirs or an executor to collect a small estate by filing an affidavit. This procedure replaces the lengthy and costly formal probate. Each state differs in the value of the net estate that can be claimed by affidavit and the filing process.
Things You'll Need
- Notary public
- Government-issued photo identification
Determine if your state has a law allowing a small estate to be claimed by means of a signed affidavit. Using an internet search engine, type in the keywords " '[your state name] probate' site:.gov." Using these keywords, you can determine if your state allows this procedure. You can also determine the maximum dollar value that qualifies as a small estate. For example, searching the internet for "Maryland probate" site:.gov returns a pamphlet on "Administration of Estates in Maryland" that contains all the information necessary for claiming a small estate.
Access the small estate affidavit for your state online. Locate your state's official website by searching for "[state name].gov." Search the site for estate or probate forms using the keywords: collection small estate affidavit.
Complete all the required fields on the Affidavit for Collection of Small Estates form. In 2011, most states allow you to complete the form online and print it out. If your state does not have that option, print out the form and manually fill in the required fields. Print at least two copies of the form -- one for your records and one to be presented to collect estate assets.
Sign the affidavit in the presence of a notary public. Unless you sign in the notary's presence, your signature is not valid. Present your government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, to the notary as proof of identification. File the affidavit with the appropriate court or agency according to the instructions that accompany the form.