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Probate for Small Estates


The best thing about probate is that you will be dead when it happens, so you will not be the one who has to deal with the stress.  Being the personal representative of an estate in probate court is months of tedious paperwork, under the watchful eye of creditors, grief-stricken relatives, and employees of the court who keep waiting for you to make a mistake so that they can blame you for it.  Imagine filing your taxes, except that it goes on for a whole year, you must dress in business attire for multiple court appearances, and the IRS is only one of multiple parties assuming the worst about you.  Did you know that it is possible to avoid probate in Maryland, or at least to avoid the most unpleasant parts about it?  Maryland law recognizes an alternative probate process known as small estate proceedings.  In order to qualify for it, you must either be poor or strategic.  The best way to make your estate eligible for a small estate proceeding without suffering a financial catastrophe is to contact a Washington, D.C. probate lawyer.

Broke Chumps Have the Last Laugh With Small Estate Proceedings

A small estate proceeding has the same main components as full probate, but it moves much faster, because the value of the estate is smaller.  In a small estate proceeding, the personal representative must file the following documents:

  • Petition for small estate proceeding
  • The decedent’s will, if the decedent wrote one
  • A list of the decedent’s known assets
  • A list of the decedent’s known outstanding debts
  • A list of any pending legal actions to which the decedent was a party

The case then proceeds like probate, with the notice to creditors and the payment of claims, but it generally takes only a few weeks, instead of nearly a year.

Your estate qualifies for small estate proceedings if its value is less than $100,000 and your spouse is the sole beneficiary of your estate.  If you do not have a surviving spouse or if someone other than your spouse is a beneficiary of your estate, then your estate only qualifies if its value is below $50,000.

Small Estate Proceedings Are for Rich People, Too

As every estate planning lawyer knows, your “estate” is not synonymous with everything you own; your estate consists only of your assets that go through probate.  A main goal of estate planning is to categorize as many assets as possible as non-probate assets, which means that they will pass directly to the beneficiary after you die, even before your estate settles.  This can mean setting up a revocable trust and transferring property to it, owning property through joint tenancy with your family members, or designating family members as payable on death beneficiaries of bank accounts.

Contact Us About Small Estate Proceedings

A Washington, D.C. probate attorney can help you if you are the personal representative of a small estate in probate court.  Contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing in Washington, D.C. or call 202-362-5900.

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