- Small estates (under $50,000 and no real property).
Whether or not you have a will when you die, if you have $50,000 or less in personal property (includes bank accounts and cash) and no real property, your devisees or heirs may collect your assets by using an affidavit and not have to open a probate action through the court. This procedure requires the devisee or heir colleting the assets to swear they are entitled to it and will distribute it to any other entitled devisees or heirs.
- Uncontested estates (informal).
The informal process is generally allowed when there is a valid will or clear intestacy, no contests are expected, and there is a qualified personal representative ready to be appointed. The court has a limited role in the administration, but ensures that the directions in the will or intestacy law are followed and provides a venue for the devisees or heirs to hold the personal representative accountable.
- Contested estates and invalid or questionable wills (“formal”).
A formal probate may be required for several reasons, including when a will is contested, unclear, invalid, or when there are apparent or actual significant challenges (i.e., identifying heirs, property title disputes) in administration. The court may require that the personal representative get approval for every transaction or may allow the personal representative to administer the estate unsupervised.
Both informal and formal probates must be open with the court for at least six months, but full administration of the estate may take much longer.