Probate for Small MP EstatesShow Table of Contents
Estate settlement in the Northern Mariana Islands is generally straightforward, but if necessary you can use an order of transfer.
Requirements for Order of Transfer
In The Northern Mariana Islands, you can use an Order of Transfer to bypass probate if the following conditions are true:
- The adjusted probate value of the estate is <$5,000
- The estate is solvent (i.e., can pay its debts)
- You cannot readily obtain estate assets without a court order (otherwise, just handle things without court involvement)
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.
You should also exclude from the valuation calculation any Family Entitlements.
To settle an estate of limited value via Order of Transfer:
- Submit to the court a Petition for Transfer of Decedent's Personalty (see below)
- Upon approval, the court will an order directing the property to be transferred
- Use the order to collect estate assets (this order cannot be used to collect land)
- Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, make distributions)
- If you belatedly discover the estate cannot pay all its debts, stop, and report back to the court
Hint: It is not necessary to submit a petition for transfer — if you can convince current custodians of estate assets to give you possession. Of course, you still need to pay debts and distribute assets to the appropriate recipients.
A Petition for Transfer of Decedent's Personalty must include:
- The name of the decedent, residence, and date of death
- The names and addresses of the surviving spouse, children, siblings of the decedent, and the eldest living brother of decedent’s mother, the head of the lineage, where applicable, or, if none of the above persons survived the decedent, the name, address, and relationship of the nearest surviving relative
- A statement of the total value of the personal property, and that the total value is over and above the exempt property and homestead allowance of the surviving spouse.
- List the property, if any, that passes or is to pass under an existing will and to whom it went or is to go
- A promise to pay, as far as the assets in excess of the exempt property and homestead allowance permit, the debts of the decedent, or see that the debts are paid, and to distribute the balance, if any, to the person or persons entitled to it
See 8 CMC §§ 2502.
Estate Settlement Considerations
Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any MP 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.
Personal representatives (i.e., executors) using this small estate process are not entitled to compensation, but any reasonable expenses should be reimbursed.
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.
No Small Estate Affidavit
Many people ask about using a small estate affidavit without any court involvement, but MP does not support such an affidavit. You must use above method (or full probate) for handling small estates in MP.
In the Northern Mariana Islands, the Clerk of the Superior Court handles wills and estate matters.
See 8 CMC §§ 2501 - 2506 for small estate statute details.
See also General Probate.