In certain circumstances where the decedent did not have a will, surviving relatives may be able to handle their affairs without going through the probate process. If the decedent is survived by a spouse and the value of their estate is less than $50,000, the spouse can file an affidavit with the court. In addition to information regarding the assets of the estate, the spouse must also have a death certificate. A Child Support Verification is required in every case. This form puts parties on notice that any outstanding arrears are to be satisfied prior to disbursement of funds to any beneficiary that owes child support. The affidavit only permits the spouse to handle the assets listed. If more assets are subsequently discovered and pushes the value of the estate over $50,000, formal probate will be required.
If the decedent was not married, their next of kin can submit an affidavit where the value of the estate of the decedent does not exceed $20,000. Consents must be obtained from other next of kin of equal degree, if applicable, to enable the affidavit to be submitted. All surviving heirs should be supplied in the affidavit information sheet including degree of kinship, addresses and ages. Any deceased next-of-kin and their issue must also be named. Otherwise, the same rules apply as discussed above with respect to child support verification and what happens if additional assets are discovered over $20,000 limit. By April M. Townsend