How Probate Works: A State Comparison

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What is Probate?

Probate is the formal process that handles the distribution of the assets of a deceased person. The probate process involves:

How Does the Probate Process Vary From State to State?

As the probate process is controlled by state law, the procedures for probate will differ from state to state. For example, California and Ohio probate procedures are quite complex, whereas Texas probate law is simpler. However, 20 states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code.

Many states permit a simplified process for smaller estates. For example, after 2012, California requires probate for estates that exceed $150,000. In Texas probate is not required for estates valued at $50,000. When probate process is skipped, an inheritor usually uses an affidavit signed under oath as well as the decedent’s death certificate to claim estate assets.

Below is a state-to-state summary of estates that may not require the full probate process.

State

Estate Value

(When Full Probate is Not Required)

Assets That Influence Estate Value for Probate Purposes.

Alabama

$3,000 or less

The estate value doesn’t include real estate

Alaska

$15,000 or less

The estate value is calculated after accounting for liens and encumbrances

Arizona

$50,000 or less (for personal property);

OR

$75,000 or less (for real estate)

After accounting for liens and encumbrances.

If based on real property, must pay all taxes and debts.

Arkansas

$50,000 or less (all property) for a simplified probate process;

OR

Personal property to which a widow or minor child are entitled free of debt.

All property is valued after encumbrances are netted, and excluding homestead and statutory allowances.

California

$150,000 or less for the entire estate (to either skip probate or use a simplified process);

OR

$50,000 or less (for real property).

For $150,000 cap, the estate’s value may not include: life insurance, property to which surviving spouse or joint tenant is entitled, out-of-state real estate, etc.

Colorado

$60,000 or less (to skip probate);

OR

Estate’s value is no more than decedent’s personal property (using simplified process)

After netting out liens and encumbrances.

Again certain exclusions are made, such as administration expenses, family allowances, etc.

Connecticut

$40,000 or less (for a simplified probate process)

Estate shouldn’t include real estate, unless in survivorship.

Delaware

$20,000 or less

Estate should not include real estate. Excluded are property owned jointly as well as property that doesn’t pass through probate.

District of Columbia (D.C.)

$40,000 or less (simplified process); OR Decedent owned only 1 or 2 motor vehicles (skip probate)

Property over which D.C. has jurisdiction to administer it is considered.

Florida

Estate’s property exempt from creditor’s claims (skipping probate option);

OR Entire estate minus property exempted from claims of creditors equals to $75,000 or less; OR Decedent had been dead for more than 2 years. 

Estate doesn’t include real estate (skipping probate option). Also, some creditors’ claims may apply to medical and funeral costs.

Georgia

No full probate required if: (i) no will, (ii) no debts owed, AND (iii) property is not contested by heirs who agreed upon how it will be distributed.

There must be no contests among heirs. They must agree on how property is to be divided.

Hawaii

$100,000 or less (may skip probate or use a simplified procedure)

 

This valuation applies to property the decedent owned in Hawaii.

Idaho

$100,000 or less (skipping probate);

OR

Value of all property doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified process);

OR

When all property is inherited by surviving spouse (use simplified process)

After liens and encumbrances are netted out. Also, property may be located out-of-state (skipping probate option)

Again liens and encumbrances have to be subtracted (for simplified process).

Cost may include medical costs and funeral expenses; allowances may be family and homestead-related, etc. (for simplified process)

Illinois

$100,000 or less (skip probate or use simplified process)

Estate is valued at gross value rather than fair market value, excluding real estate (skip probate).

Consent from inheritors and beneficiaries is required (for simplified process).

Indiana

$50,000 or less (skip probate or use simplified process)

 

Estate valued at gross value, less liens and encumbrances (skip probate).

Administrative and funeral costs are implicated (for use of simplified procedure).

Iowa

$25,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

$100,000 or less (use simplified process)

Estate should not include real estate (skip probate)


In general, estate’s valuation should be based on the gross value

 

Kansas

$20,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

Court may approve simplified process based on various factors.

For simplified process, a court may consider such factors as estate’s value and inheritors’ interests.

Kentucky

Estate’s value is $15,000 or less (no personal property passed by will and decedent survived by a spouse;

OR

Third party paid $15,000 or more in proffered claims (no surviving spouse).

Both options allow for a simplified process associated with small estates.

Maine

$20,000 or less (no probate);

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified procedure).

Liens and encumbrances are to be subtracted for both options.

Estate may be located out-of-state (for no probate option).

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses.

Maryland

$30,000 or less (subject to probate in the state);

OR

$50,000 or less (if the only beneficiary is a surviving spouse)

Both options allow for a simplified process associated with small estates.

Massachusetts

$25,000 or less;

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified procedure).

Liens and encumbrances should be taken out (for simplified process).

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses (for simplified process).

Michigan

$15,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

After paying funeral costs, estate is $15,000 or less (simplified procedure)

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified procedure).

No real estate can be included in the estate. Liens and encumbrances must be subtracted from the estate's value to skip probate.

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses (for simplified process).

Liens and encumbrances must be subtracted (when estate’s value is compared with allowances, costs, expenses, etc).

Minnesota

$20,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

If in the judgment of the court there are no creditors’ claims (use simplified process).

Estate doesn’t have to be in-state; less liens and encumbrances (skip probate option).

If exempted or set aside for spouse or children, creditors won’t be able to claim (for simplified process).

Mississippi

For bank accounts of $12,500 or less (skip probate)

OR

Estate is $500 or less (simplified process)

A claimant for bank account becomes responsible for decedent’s debts to the extent of his withdrawal form the bank account (skipping probate).

Missouri

$40,000 or less (simplified process).

Liens and encumbrances must be subtracted.

Montana

$50,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified procedure).

To skip probate, liens and encumbrances must first be subtracted from the estate's value.

Estate may not be located in-state (skip probate).

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses (for simplified process).

Nebraska

Personal property $50,000 or less (to skip probate); OR

State’s real estate $30,000 or less (skip probate).

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified procedure).

To skip probate, liens and encumbrances must be subtracted from the estate's value.

Personal property may be out-of-state.

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses (for simplified process).

Nevada

$20,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

Gross of $200,000 or less, providing court approves; or $100,000 or less encumbrances (use simplified process).

The estate value must be based on gross value of in-state property, providing there’s no in-state real estate. Also, procedure may be used only by certain surviving relatives.

Court may make property set asides (simplified process).

New Hampshire

Will naming spouse or only child sole beneficiary, or if no will there’s a sole heir (simplified process).

Sole heir or beneficiary to be appointed as an administrator, and court has to approve(simplified process).

New Jersey

$20,000 or less for surviving spouse / domestic partner, or $10,000 or less, if none (skip probate)

Deceased must have left no will. Value of all property is considered.

For estate values of $10,000 or less, the heir can receive all property, providing others agree.

New Mexico

Tax value of principal residence is $500,000 or less, or whole estate is $50,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified procedure).

If the whole estate is valued, liens and encumbrances must be subtracted first. Also, property doesn’t have to be in-state (skipping probate).

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses (for simplified process).

New York

Gross value $20,000 or less (simplified process).

Real estate and property set aside for decedent’s family survivors are not counted into the estate's gross value.

North Carolina

Personal property $20,000 or less, or $30,000 or less, if sole surviving spouse as heir is left (skip probate);

OR

if surviving spouse inherits entire estate (simplified process).

For real property, probate can't be skipped altogether. Liens and encumbrances must be subtracted from the value of personal property.

North Dakota

$50,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (use simplified procedure).

Entire estate is valued, minus liens and encumbrances (skip probate). 

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses (for simplified process).

Ohio

$35,000 or less; or $100,000 or less, if surviving spouse inherits the entire estate (simplified process).

Surviving spouse may inherit under will or by intestacy laws (simplified process).

Oklahoma

$20,000 or less (skip probate);

OR 

$175,000 ($200,000 as of 2013) or less; or if deceased is dead for more than 5 years, or if death occurred when resided in another state (simplified procedure).

The market value of the in-state estate is assessed, minus liens and encumbrances (skip probate).

Oregon

Fair market value is $275,000 or less;

OR

Personal property of $75,000 or less, AND real estate is $200,000 or less (simplified process).

 

Pennsylvania

$25,000 or less (simplified process). 

$3,500 may be released by a bank to decedent’s family survivors (skip probate)

In-state property is considered, not counting real estate and certain costs (simplified process).

Death certificate and proof of payment for funeral must be demonstrated (skip probate).

Rhode Island

$15,000 or less (simplified process)

To use a simplified process, the estate shouldn't include real property.

South Carolina

$10,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

$10,000 or less (simplified process).

Liens and encumbrances must be subtracted before skipping probate.

Certain expenses (i.e., funeral) and exempted property may not count towards estate value (simplified process).

South Dakota

$50,000 or less (skip probate)

Simplified procedure may be used for estates of different value.

The entire estate is considered, minus liens and encumbrances (skip probate).

Tennessee

$25,000 or less (simplified process).

Real estate, as well as property in joint ownership with right of survivorship, is not counted in the estate's value (simplified process).

Texas

$50,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

Value is not more than family allowances and some debt payments (simplified process).

OR

If will requests so or all inheritors agree (simplified process).

The decedent must not have made a will. The whole of estate is valued, except for the homestead and exempt property (skip probate).

Utah

$100,000 or less (skip probate); 

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (for simplified process).

The entire estate is considered, minus liens and encumbrances to skip probate.

Further, certain vehicles and boats may be transferred too (skip probate). 

Allowances are family and homestead-related. Costs may be related to medical, funeral, and administrative expenses (for simplified process). 

Vermont

$10,000 or less (for simplified process).

To use a simplified process, the estate shouldn't include real estate.

Virginia

Personal property $50,000 or less (skip probate).

If decedent had no will, real property may be claimed by an affidavit.

Washington

$100,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

Solvent estates (simplified process).

Liens and encumbrances must be subtracted from the estate's value. Community property interest is also not counted toward the estate's value (skip probate).

A will must name an executor requesting a simplified process. Or, if there is no will, another survivor may request under certain conditions.

West Virginia

$100,000 or less; or if executor or surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary;

OR

If no disputes among beneficiaries, there’s enough assets, AND executor agrees (simplified process).

Estate shouldn’t include real property (simplified process).

Wisconsin

$50,000 or less (skip probate). 

OR

$50,000 or less, and survivors are minor children or spouse (simplified process)

OR

Estate’s value doesn’t exceed certain allowances, costs, expenses, and exempt property (for simplified process).

In-state property must have been solely owned by the decedent (skip probate).

Liens and encumbrances must be subtracted from the estate's value (simplified process).

Wyoming

$200,000 or less (skip probate);

OR

$200,000 or less (simplified process)

The entire estate is valued, minus liens and encumbrances (skip probate).

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Last Modified: 09-25-2013 02:01 PM PDT

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