topic | opening probate

Step: estimate size of probated estate - all assets

The monetary value of an estate impacts the probate process in many states. “Small estates” go through a quicker, streamlined process, and are easier to deal with. However, each state defines a "small estate" differently.

Check with the decedent’s county court regarding state specific dollar size qualifications for a “small estate." Then, estimate the value or size of an estate by accounting for everything except for real estate owned in other states. An estate known to have a net worth (probate assets minus the liabilities of the estate) in excess of $150,000 generally will not qualify as a “small estate.”

Is it obvious that the estimated size of the estate grossly exceeds the state specific qualifications?

Activity 1
Determine the Value of Financial Accounts

Identify financial accounts and insurance policies, and estimate their value.

  • Investments, Liquid Assets, Loans, Other Assets and Insurance Policies may already contain this information. If not, use them as a guide to compile a list of accounts.
  • Include only accounts held solely in the name of the deceased when estimating the probate estate value. Exclude accounts that are jointly owned, have designated beneficiaries, or have POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death) designations.
  • Exclude financial assets that are named as part of a Trust.
  • Document the total value of financial accounts.

Activity 2
Determine Value of Real Estate

Estimate the value of real estate owned within the state that probate will be filed. Real estate owned in other states will be handled at a later time.

  • Include only real estate owned solely by the decedent.
  • Exclude real estate assets that are named as part of a Trust.
  • Real Estate Records may contain information helpful in identifying property.
  • Use a realtor, online source, or the most recent county assessment to estimate the value.
  • Document the total value of real estate.

Activity 3
Determine Value of Personal Property

Include all personal property regardless of what state it resides in. Personal property includes items such as vehicles, art, jewelry, antiques, and other collectables.

  • Personal Property may be of assistance.
  • Estimate value. Formal appraisals will be conducted in the Topic: Inventory and Appraise Assets.
  • Include property that is titled solely in the name of the decedent.
  • Exclude personal property named as part of a Trust.
  • Document the total value of personal property.

Activity 4
Determine Estimated Liabilities and Compute Net Worth

The net worth of the estate is used to determine whether the estate qualifies as a “small estate.”  To determine the net worth of the probate estate, liabilities or debts associated with non-probate assets (such as a mortgage or unpaid funeral expenses) must be subtracted from the gross value of non-probate assets (determined in Activities 1-3).

Calculate liabilities.

  • Accounts, Deposits DeductionsDues Subscriptions, and Other Payments may already contain information on specific debts.
  • Search for monthly bills that contain information on debts. Financial institutions may be reluctant to provide information regarding accounts before the executor is officially the authorized representative of the estate.
  • Document the sum of liabilities.

Subtract the sum of liabilities from the sum of probate assets determined in Activities 1-3. The result will be the net worth of the estate.

Does the net worth of the estate exceed the state specific qualifications for both Affidavit and Summary procedures? (These values were obtained from the county court?)

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