Probate for Small WY Estates

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Courthouse for estate probate

In Wyoming, small estates can completely bypass probate via small estate affidavit, or simplify it via summary administration.

Small Estate Affidavit

If a Wyoming estate has a gross value <$200,000, you can use the small estate process to settle the estate with limited court involvement.

Requirements

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

  • The entire WY probate estate has a gross value <$200K
  • At least 30 days have passed since the death
  • No petition has already been made to a court in WY to officially appoint a personal representative

In determining the gross value of the WY 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 real estate in other states, or 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. Submit the affidavit (along with a copy of the death certificate and the will if one exists) to the county clerk to get it certified
  3. Obtain possession of estate assets by presenting the certified affidavit to current custodians (this affidavit cannot be used to collect real estate)
  4. Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, distribute remaining assets)

Affidavit

You can use this Small WY Estate Affidavit Form by the OpenDocs project (which includes quite a bit not required by law), or create your own.

If you choose to create your own, note that a small estate affidavit must include:

  • The name of the decedent, address, and date of death
  • Statements that the above requirements have been met (list each one)
  • A statement that to the best of your knowledge, no affidavit pursuant to W.S. 2-1-201, in connection with the decedent, has been presented to any party referred to in W.S. 2-1-201
  • A description of the assets being claimed (consider attaching the EstateExec Inventory Report)
  • A statement that you and any other affidavit signatories are entitled to payment or delivery of the property, your relationship(s) to the decedent, the legal basis upon which you are entitled to the property (i.e., details of the will or intestate succession), and that there are no other distributees of the decedent having a right to succeed to the property under probate proceedings in any jurisdiction
  • If an application for appointment of a personal representative has been made in a jurisdiction outside of WY, also include the name and address of the personal representative, the date of the application and the date of any appointment, and the title of the proceedings and name of the court and jurisdiction in which the application was made

Each signature on the affidavit must be made in the presence of a notary public, and the affidavit notarized. It is not necessary to try to unify everything into a single affidavit, but that can sometimes be the most efficient, especially since you will have to pay to get each signature notarized.

See WY Stat § 2-1-201.

Summary Administration

Alternately, you can use summary administration (also known as simplified probate) if the WY estate has a gross value <$200,000 but you cannot or do not want to use a small estate affidavit because the estate contains real property (i.e., real estate), or you simply want more court involvement so that enforcement and protection are a bit more formalized.

Requirements

You can use summary administration if the following are true:

  • The entire WY probate estate has a gross value <$200K
  • At least 30 days have passed since the death
  • No petition has already been made to a court in WY to officially appoint a personal representative

In determining the gross value of the WY 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 real estate in other states, or 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. Get an official appraisal (including mineral interests) for any WY real estate in the estate
  2. Submit to the court an Application for Summary Administration (see below)
  3. Publish a notice of your application once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county, or otherwise as the court may order
  4. Within 10 days of the first notice publication, send a copy via first class mail to the last known address of any reasonably ascertainable creditors and to any surviving spouse and to all other distributees (or their guardians if minors), so far as known, or to their personal representatives if any are deceased.
  5. Within 10 days of the first notice publication, send a copy to the WY Department of Health if the decedent received medical assistance from the state pursuant to WY Stat § 42-4-101 through 114
  6. Provide to the court an affidavit from the newspaper that it published the notice, and provide a notarized statement yourself saying that you mailed any required notices, stating the name and address of every person you notified
  7. Upon approval, the court will issue a decree establishing the right and title to the property
  8. Use this decree to collect estate assets, and then settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, make distributions)

Application

The application must:

  • Include the name of the decedent, address, and date of death
  • State that the above requirements have been met (list each one)
  • List the WY estate contents subject to probate (consider attaching an EstateExec Inventory Report)
  • Fully describe any real estate being claimed, including any mineral interests, and include a notarized broker's price opinion for the date of death by a broker with no legal interest in the estate
  • State that you and any other affidavit signatories are entitled to payment or delivery of the property, your relationship(s) to the decedent, the legal basis upon which you are entitled to the property (i.e., details of the will or intestate succession), and that there are no other distributees of the decedent having a right to succeed to the property under probate proceedings in any jurisdiction
  • If an application for appointment of a personal representative has been made in a jurisdiction outside of WY, also include the name and address of the personal representative, the date of the application and the date of any appointment, and the title of the proceedings and name of the court and jurisdiction in which the application was made

Attach a copy of the death certificate and the will (if there is no will, attach a list of the intestate heirs, including names, addresses, and relationships to the decedent)

See WY Stat § 2-1-205.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any WY 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 Wyoming, the county District Court handles wills and estate matters.

See also General Probate.

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