If an estate’s probate assets do not exceed $184,500, the executor or an heir can apply for a “small estate affidavit,” which can be used to avoid probate’s most time-consuming elements. 

A small estate affidavit includes information such as:

  • The decedent’s full name, date of death, and county of death
  • Attestations that the value of the deceased person’s estate does not exceed $184,500
  • An inventory and appraisal of the decedent’s real estate or an attestation that the decedent owned no real property
  • The names of the decedent’s heirs

An affidavit can be used to begin informal probate. Once the affidavit has been approved, it can be used in conjunction with a death certificate to begin claiming, transferring, and re-titling the deceased person’s assets.

The Advantages of Small Estate Administration

Small estate administration is a legal process and an alternative to ordinary probate proceedings, and it conveys many advantages over conventional probate.

In general, small estate administration is preferable to probate for the following reasons:

  • Probate is a time-sensitive process. If the executor misses any critical deadlines, they—or the estate—could be held liable for any resulting damages.
  • Probate is a public process. If any dispute arises during probate, it will become a matter of public record. You do not need to establish a “legitimate interest” to obtain probate records.
  • Probate can be expensive. While heirs and beneficiaries are not expected to pay out-of-pocket, the executor may have to use the estate’s resources to hire an attorney, defend against will contests, or otherwise advocate the estate’s interests.

However, even estate representatives and heirs seeking small estate administration could encounter potential obstacles in obtaining and executing a small estate affidavit—especially if the court requires additional documentation or any disputes arise after proceedings have been initiated.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.