Probate for Small GU EstatesShow Table of Contents
In Guam, small estates can bypass probate via small estate affidavit, or simplify it via summary administration.
Small Estate Affidavit
If an Guam estate has an adjusted gross value <$75,000, you may be able to use a small estate affidavit to settle the estate with no court involvement.
In Guam, an estate qualifies as "small" if its adjusted probate value is <$75,000 and it contains no real property (i.e., real estate).
In calculating estate value, you should exclude:
- The value of any motor vehicles
- Up to $6,000 in salary and vacation from an employer
- Any amounts due for services in the armed forces
Value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any debts (other than secured debt such as liens and mortgages). Do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with rights of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.
If the estate qualifies as small, you can simplify the probate process as follows:
- Prepare a small estate affidavit (see below)
- Use the affidavit to collect estate assets from current custodians
- Settle the estate in the normal manner (pay all obligations, distribute assets)
- If everything goes smoothly, there will be no need for any court involvement at all
The small estate affidavit is simply a sworn statement that includes:
- The name of the decedent, address, and date of death
- A statement that the value of the gross probate estate, as defined by , is <$75,000
- A description of the assets being claimed (consider attaching the EstateExec Inventory Report)
- Names and addresses of heirs claiming the assets, and their percentages
- A statement that each claiming inheritor is entitled to payment or delivery of the property in the listed percentages
It is not necessary to try to unify everything into a single affidavit, but that can sometimes be the most efficient.
It seems more impressive to have every inheritor sign the affidavit, and have each signature notarized, but in truth only the person who will actually present the affidavit needs to sign it, swearing that everything is true.
It can be helpful to attach a copy of the death certificate and the will (if one exists).
See 15 Guam Code § 3101.
Summary Administration (also known as simplified probate) can also be used for estates worth <$75,000 if there is a surviving spouse or minor children. You might want to use this approach if the estate does not qualify for a small estate affidavit (e.g., it contains real property), or if you simply want court involvement so that enforcement and protection are a bit more formalized.
You can use summary administration if the estate is worth <$75,000 and there is a surviving spouse and/or minor children.
In calculating estate value, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any debts (other than secured debt such as liens and mortgages). Do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with rights of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.
Unlike estate valuation for a small estate affidavit, you do not exclude motor vehicles or back pay, but you do exclude the value of any homestead exemption.
To settle an estate via summary administration:
- Submit to the court a Petition for Summary Administration (see below)
- Notify interested parties of the hearing for your petition by posting a notice in the office of the municipal commissioner at least 15 days before the hearing, and publishing it in a newspaper of general circulation in Guam for 3 consecutive days, the last of which cannot be more than 10 days before the hearing
- Upon approval, the court will issue an order setting aside the estate for the surviving family
- Use the order to collect estate assets, and then settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, make distributions)
The petition should:
- State the interest of the petitioner (e.g., named in the will as executor, surviving spouse, guardian of minor children)
- State the name, address, and date of death of the decedent
- If a will exists, attach the original or a certified copy, and include a statement that you believe the attachment is the decedent's last will, that you believe the will to have been validly executed, and that after the exercise of due diligence, that you are unaware of any instrument revoking the will. Also state whether the will has been admitted to probate in any other jurisdiction.
- If the decedent died intestate, state that you diligently searched for and failed to find a will
- List the estate inventory, including specific descriptions and values, any liens or encumbrances, and a designation of any property identified as the homestead (consider attaching an EstateExec Inventory Report)
- Request that the court set aside the estate for the surviving family
In addition to attaching any will, attach a copy of the death certificate, and have the petition notarized.
Estate Settlement Considerations
Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any GU Family Entitlements, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses.
Estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so you should arrange to have all debts resolved before distributing assets. Unpaid estate creditors have the right to sue heirs for the value of any distributions received using the approaches described on this page.
If estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased creditor protection it offers. Alternately, such uncertainty can sometimes persuade creditors to forgive a portion of debts, since they will want to avoid legal expenses as well, and may prefer to get something rather than nothing.
See also Making Distributions.
In Guam, the Superior Court in Hagåtña handles wills and estate matters.
See also General Probate.