Settling Small Estates (AS)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
Show Table of Contents Courthouse for estate probate

Probate is not required for small estates in American Samoa, allowing executors to save considerable effort and cost, and regardless of estate size, probate is not required if an estate contains only assets exempt from probate.

Transferal of Personal Property Requirements

In American Samoa, an estate can use the small estate process if its probate value is <$10,000 and it is solvent (i.e., its assets are worth at least as much as its debts). This limit was last raised in 1979: prior to that it was $1,000.

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 right of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.

See A.S.C.A. § 40.0334 for statute details.


If the estate meets the requirements above, you can simplify the probate process as follows:

  1. Submit to the Trial Division of the High Court a Petition for Transferal of Personal Property to Person Entitled to Letters of Administration (see American Samoa Legal Aid for instructions)
  2. Upon approval, the court will issue an order directing the transfer of the property and th,e payment of any debts
  3. Use the court order to obtain estate assets from current custodians, then settle the estate in the normal manner (pay all obligations, distribute assets)

Hint: It is not necessary to submit a petition for transferal — 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.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any Family Entitlements in AS, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses.

Even if the estate does not go through probate, you may still be entitled to Executor Compensation in AS, and this compensation also has priority over most estate debts.

Estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so before distributing assets you should resolve any estate debts. If the estate makes any distributions beyond amounts set aside for family entitlements, unpaid creditors have the right to sue the recipients for repayment using those excess distributions. Consequently, even if the settlement process does not require you to publish a Notice to Creditors, you may want to follow AS probate rules for finding estate debts, since doing so may limit the time creditors have to pursue repayment.

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 AS does not support such an affidavit. You must use above method (or full probate) for handling small estates in AS.


In American Samoa, the High Court in Pago Pago handles wills and estate matters.

Additional Information

If your estate doesn't qualify for a small estate approach, or you're simply interested in exploring standard probate, take a look at Probate in AS.

And since probate is just the court-supervised subset of winding up a person's affairs after death, you'll probably want to check out our Complete Guide to Estate Settlement in AS.

Finally, in case you're interested, details about handling small estates in other states can be found here:

Copyright © 2014-24 EstateExec