Settling Small Estates (IN)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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In Indiana, small estates can bypass full probate via small estate affidavit, or via simplified administration. Regardless of estate size, probate is not required if an estate contains only assets exempt from probate.

Small Estate Affidavit

If an Indiana estate contains personal property worth <$50,000, you can use the small estate process to settle an estate with no court involvement.


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

  • The estate's personal property, minus any reasonable funeral expenses, is worth <$50K in total
  • At least 45 days have passed since the death
  • No petition has already been made to the court to officially appoint a personal representative

In determining the value of the personal property, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any unsecured debts. Do not include real estate, or any 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.


To use the small estate process:

  1. Prepare a Small Estate Affidavit form (see below)
  2. Notify anyone else entitled to the estate property you are claiming that you intend to use a small estate affidavit (it's normal to give at least 10-day's advance notice)
  3. Obtain possession of the property by presenting the affidavit to the current custodian of the property (real estate cannot be transferred via small estate affidavit)
  4. Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, distribute remaining assets)
  5. To transfer title of a vehicle or watercraft you must also file an IN Form 18733 with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Affidavit Form

You can use the Small Estate Affidavit Form provided by Indiana Legal Help.

If you instead choose to create your own, it must:

  • State that the above requirements have been met
  • List the name and address of everyone entitled to the property being claimed, along with their shares
  • Confirm that each such person has been notified of your intent to use this affidavit
  • Declare that you are entitled to collect the property on their behalf

While not necessarily required by law, it can be very helpful to have the affidavit notarized, and to attach a certified copy of the death certificate and a copy of the will (if one exists).

See IC § 29-1-8.

Simplified Probate

Simplified Probate also applies to estates worth <$50K, and involves more court interaction than a small estate affidavit, but can handle real estate as well.


You can use simplified probate (also known as summary probate) if the value of the estate, after subtracting any estate administration costs and reasonable funeral expenses, is <$50,000.

In determining the value of the property, you should value assets as of the date of death. Ignore any unsecured debts (such as credit cards), but do account for secured debts such as mortgages (i.e., if a house is worth $150K and has a $130K mortgage, the house would contribute $20K to the estate value). Do not include any 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.


To settle an estate via simplified probate:

  1. Submit to the court a Petition for Probate and Issuance of Letters Testamentary for an Unsupervised Administration (check with the local court to determine any preferred format; here is an example Marion County Petition)
  2. Upon approval, the court will issue your "Letters", which you can use to obtain possession of estate assets
  3. Settle the estate in the normal way, keeping in mind the Family Exemptions mentioned below
  4. File a Closing Statement with the court, and send required notices (see below)

Closing Statement and Notices

The court Closing Statement must state that:

  • The gross probate estate, less liens and encumbrances, did not exceed the sum of estate administration costs, reasonable funeral expenses, and $50,000
  • The assets were distributed to the persons entitled to them, and the distributees were given a full accounting of the estate (see EstateExec Final Accounting Report)
  • A copy of the closing statement was sent to all estate creditors and distributees

If the estate contained real estate, you must also attach a copy of any real property affidavit you filed (see below).

Send the required notices described in the closing statement, and have the statement notarized (i.e., sign and have your signature verified) before filing it with the court.

Real Property

If the estate contains real property, you should also file an affidavit (a simple sworn statement) in the office of the recorder in the county in which the property is located, stating: ""It appears that the decedent's gross probate estate, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed the sum of the following: fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), the costs and expenses of administration, and reasonable funeral expenses."

The affidavit must also contain the legal description of the property, the name of each person entitled to any share in the property as a result of the decedent's death, the share to which each person is entitled, whether the share is a divided or undivided interest, and a statement which explains how each person's share has been determined.

Notarize the affidavit before filing.

See IC § 29-1-8-3 and IC § 29-1-7-4.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any Family Entitlements in IN, 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 IN, 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 IN 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.

Intestate Inheritance

If there is no will, Indiana law defines who should inherit from the estate in IC § 29-1-2. This statute is fairly straightforward, but covers a number of circumstances, even including spousal adultery, so you should check all clauses before finalizing a distribution plan.


In Indiana, the local Circuit or Superior Court handles wills and estate probate. St. Joseph County is the only Indiana county that also has a specialized Probate Court.

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 IN.

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 IN.

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

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