Probate for Small VT EstatesShow Table of Contents
Full probate is not required for "small" estates in Vermont, allowing executors to save considerable effort and cost.
Small Estate Requirements
In Vermont, an estate qualifies as "small" if its fair market value is <$45,000 and it contains no real property (i.e., real estate), other than any qualified timeshares.
In calculating estate value, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any debts. 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:
- Submit to the court a Petition to Open Small Estate (see below)
- The court may require you to obtain a bond for the value of the estate, or you can also submit a Bond Waiver (Form 700-00004) for each interested person
- Provide a copy of the petition to each interested person that did not sign the petition, and submit to the court a Certificate of Service (Form 100-00264) stating that you have made the required notifications
- If at least 14 days have passed since every required notice was received, and there are no objections, the court will appoint you as personal representative for the estate, and grant you "Letters"
- Use your "Letters" to obtain estate assets from current custodians, and settle the estate in the normal manner (pay all obligations, distribute assets)
- When making distributions, it is good practice to obtain a Receipt (Form P 153)
- If there are any vehicles involved, you must also transfer the titles at the DMV
- Submit to the court a Report of Fiduciary for Small Estate (Form 700-00055): consider attaching an EstateExec Final Accounting Report
Fill out a Petition to Open Small Estate (Form 700-00001SM), and attach:
- An original death certificate
- The original will (if any)
- An Estate Inventory (Form 700-00030) (consider attaching an EstateExec Inventory Report)
- A List of Interested Persons (Form 700-00002)
- A signed statement showing any funeral bills (paid or unpaid) and any other reasonably ascertainable debts
Estate Settlement Considerations
Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any VT 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 via the small estate process.
If the estate cannot pay all its debts, you must apply to the court for an Order of Dividend, which will determine the priority of claims and the amounts to be paid.
If an estate is insolvent or estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased protection from creditors 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 VT does not support such an affidavit. You must use above method (or full probate) for handling small estates in VT.
See 14 V.S.A. § 1901 et seq for statute details.
See also General Probate.