In the normal course of events, formal probate is required following the death of an individual. Formal probate, however, can cost the estate a considerable amount of money and cost the beneficiaries in terms of time. If you are involved in the probate of an estate in the State of New Hampshire, you may be wondering if New Hampshire probate law offers an alternative to formal probate for small estates. The good news is that if the estate qualifies it may be possible to avoid both the time and expense involved in formal probate in New Hampshire.
What Is Probate?
Everyone who dies leaves behind an estate. Some decedents leave only small estates that consist of nothing more than personal property while other decedents leave behind extremely valuable estates that involve complex assets. Regardless of the size and/or value of the estate, the assets that make up the estate must eventually be passed on to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. Creditors of the estate also need to be given the opportunity to file claims against the estate before those assets are transferred. Finally, Uncle Sam wants to make sure that any taxes owed by the estate are paid before assets are removed from the estate. Probate is the legal process that ensures that all of this occurs before assets leave the estate. When an estate is required to go through formal probate, however, it can take months, even years, to conclude the probate process. All the while, the estate is losing assets because of the expenses involved in the probate of the estate and the assets intended for loved ones are out of reach because they are held up in probate.
New Hampshire Small Estate Alternatives — Waiver of Administration Affidavit
In the State of New Hampshire, one alternative to formal probate is a “Waiver of Administration Affidavit.” If the Executor or Administrator of the estate is allowed to use a Waiver of Administration Affidavit, an inventory and appraisal of estate assets, a fiduciary bond and an accounting are not required, resulting in a much faster and less complicated probate process. A Waiver of Administration Affidavit may be used if any of the following apply:
- Whenever a decedent dies and the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary of the decedent’s estate and is appointed to serve as administrator.
- Whenever a decedent dies and, if there is no surviving spouse, an only child is named as the sole beneficiary of the decedent’s estate and is appointed to serve as administrator.
- Whenever a decedent dies and, if there is no surviving spouse or child, a parent is the sole beneficiary of the decedent’s estate and is appointed to serve as administrator.
- Whenever a decedent dies and, if there is no surviving spouse or child, the decedent’s parents are the sole beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate and both parents are appointed to serve as co-administrators.
- Whenever a decedent dies and a trust created by the decedent is named as the sole beneficiary of the estate and the trustee is appointed to serve as administrator or any appropriate person is appointed to serve as administrator with the assent of the trustee.
Although the basic probate process must still be followed for an estate that qualifies for using a Waiver of Administration Affidavit, the ability to conclude the probate process in this manner will save everyone involved time and money.
Small estates involving only personal property with a value of $10,000 or less are eligible for a simplified form of administration called Voluntary or Small Estate Administration, if the decedent died prior to January 1, 2006. Unfortunately, for decedents who dies after January 1, 2006 the option to use Voluntary Administration no longer exists.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the probate of an estate in the State of New Hampshire, or if you find yourself appointed as the Executor or Administrator of an estate in the State of New Hampshire, contact the experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.