Probate for Small MH Estates

Show Table of Contents
Courthouse for estate probate

Estate settlement in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is generally straightforward, but if necessary you can use a small estate affidavit or an order of transfer.

Small Estate Affidavit

If a Marshall Islands estate is worth <$2,500, you may be able to use a small estate affidavit to settle the estate with no court involvement.

Requirements

To use the small estate process, the personal property (i.e., everything other than real estate) in the estate must have a combined value <$2,500.

In determining the gross value of the estate, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any unsecured debts (but do subtract things like liens and mortgages). Do not include any 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.

Process

To use the small estate process:

  1. Prepare a Small Estate Affidavit (see below)
  2. Obtain possession of estate assets by presenting the affidavit to current custodians (this affidavit cannot be used to collect real estate)
  3. Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, distribute remaining assets)
  4. If everything goes smoothly, no court involvement will ever be required

Affidavit

The small estate affidavit should include:

  • The name of the decedent, address, and date of death
  • Your relationship to the decedent (e.g., spouse, son, etc.), and, if not the closet surviving relative, your authority for making this claim (e.g., named in the will)
  • The names and addresses of any surviving spouse, children, and any survivor of the decedent who is more closely related to the decedent than you
  • The nature and value of estate assets
  • Whether or not the decedent left a will and, if so, to whom the decedent gave the assets of the estate
  • A statement that you will undertake to pay any estate debts to the extent the assets permit
  • The names of anyone entitled to a distribution of assets and the share to which each is entitled

Have the affidavit notarized.

See 25 MIRC §§ 116 - 119.

Order of Transfer

Regardless of estate size, estate settlement can be fairly simple in the Marshall Islands if there is no land involved, using an Order of Transfer.

Requirements

You can request an Order of Transfer if you cannot readily obtain possession of estate personal property, and you are a surviving spouse, any adult child, including an adopted child, or no such persons survive, the nearest surviving relative.

Process

To settle an estate via Order of Transfer:

  1. File a complaint with the High Court asking for the property to be transferred to you
  2. Upon approval, the court will an order directing the property to be transferred
  3. Use the order to collect estate assets (this order cannot be used to collect real estate)
  4. Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, make distributions)
  5. If you belatedly discover the estate cannot pay all its debts, stop, and report back to the court

Complaint

The complaint must include:

  • The name of the decedent, residence, and date of death
  • Your relationship to the decedent (e.g., spouse, son, etc.), and, if not the closet surviving relative, your authority for making this claim (e.g., named in the will)
  • The names and addresses of any surviving spouse and children, or if none, of the nearest surviving relative
  • The total value of the estate personal property
  • The property, if any, that passed or is to pass under either intestate or under a will, and to whom it went or is to go
  • A statement that you will undertake to pay any estate debts to the extent the assets permit, and to distribute anything remaining to the person or persons entitled to it

Have the complaint notarized, and attach a copy of the death certificate and the will (if any)

See 25 MIRC §§ 111 - 115.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any MH 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.

Court

In the Marshall Islands, the High Court handles wills and estate matters.

See also General Probate.

Copyright © 2014-24 EstateExec