Probate for Small NE Estates

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Courthouse for estate probate

In Nebraska, small estates can completely bypass probate via small estate affidavit and homestead transfer, or simplify it via summary administration.

Small Estate Personal Property Affidavit

If the personal property of a Nebraska estate has a combined gross value <$50,000, you can use the small estate process to settle the estate (other than any real estate) with no court involvement.

Requirements

To use the small estate process, the following conditions must be true:

  • The estate personal property (i.e., everything except real estate) has a gross value <$50K
  • At least 30 days have passed since the death
  • No petition has already been made to the court to officially appoint a personal representative

In determining the gross value of the estate, you should value assets as of the date of death, and subtract any liens or mortgages (but do ignore unsecured debts such as credit cards). 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
  2. It can be helpful to attach a copy of the death certificate and the will (if one exists)
  3. Obtain possession of estate assets by presenting the affidavit to current custodians
  4. Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, distribute remaining assets)
  5. If you are transferring a vehicle, submit DMV Affidavit to the DMV
  6. If everything goes smoothly, no court involvement will ever be required

Estate Settlement Considerations

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

See NE Code § 30-24,125.

Small Estate Real Property Affidavit

If the real property (i.e., real estate) of a Nebraska estate has a combined net value <$50,000, you can use the small estate process to transfer the property with no court involvement.

Requirements

To use this process, the following conditions must be true:

  • The estate's real property in Nebraska has a combined net value <$50K
  • At least 30 days have passed since the death
  • No petition has already been made to the court to officially appoint a personal representative

In determining the net value of the real property, you should value the property as of the date of death, and subtract any liens or 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 transfer the property to the rightful successor, submit to the county register of deeds office an Affidavit of Transfer of Real Property without Probate.

See NE Code § 30-24,129.

Summary Administration

Summary Administration (also known as simplified probate) can be used if you want court involvement so that enforcement and protection are a bit more formalized.

Requirements

You can use summary administration if the estate is worth less than the sum of:

  1. The value of any homestead allowance, exempt property, and family allowance
  2. Estate administration expenses
  3. Reasonable funeral expenses
  4. Reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last illness

In determining the value of the estate, you should value assets as of the date of death, and subtract any secured debts such as liens or mortgages (but ignore unsecured debt such as credit card debt). 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 settle an estate via summary administration:

  1. Submit a Petition for Probate to the court
  2. Upon approval, the court will issue you Letters of Administration
  3. At the same time, or later when you are ready, request a summary administration from the court, showing that the requirements have been met
  4. Use your "Letters" to collect estate assets, then distribute them according to the requirements list in priority order
  5. Prepare a Final Accounting of the estate (consider using the EstateExec Accounting Report)
  6. Prepare and send a copy of a Closing Statement to all unpaid creditors and to all distributees, including the Final Accounting for any distributee whose interest was affected
  7. Submit the Closing Statement to the court (see below)
  8. If no actions or proceedings involving the personal representative are pending in the court one year after the closing statement is filed, the appointment of the personal representative terminates.

Closing Statement

A Closing Statement must state:

  • To the best of your knowledge the estate met the requirements for summary administration (list the requirements from above)
  • You fully administered the estate by disbursing and distributing it to the persons entitled thereto
  • You sent a copy of the closing statement to all unpaid creditors and other claimants of whom you are aware, and to all distributees (attaching a final estate accounting report to the distributees whose interests were affected)

See NE Code § 30-24,127.

Court

In Nebraska, the County Court handles wills and estate matters.

See also General Probate.

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