Settling Small Estates (NH)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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New Hampshire no longer supports what was previously known as Small Estate Administration (NH Rev Stat § 553:33 was repealed in 2005), but a NH estate of any size may be able to simplify probate via waiver of administration, or via summary administration, and probate is not required at all if an estate contains only assets exempt from probate.

Waiver of Administration

In New Hampshire, an estate administrator (i.e., the executor) may be able to simplify probate via a waiver of administration.


You can apply for a waiver of administration if:

  • The estate can pay all its debts
  • One of the following is true:
    • You (the administrator) will be the sole heir
    • Everyone entitled to inherit will serve as co-administrators
    • Everyone entitled to inherit agrees to the suggested administrator
    • The administrator will be a trustee of the trust named in the will as the sole inheritor
  • If an administrator has already been appointed, no more than one year has passed since the appointment was made


To use a waiver of administration:

  1. Submit to the court a Petition for Estate Administration (Form NHJB-2145-P) with question #9 marked yes
  2. Upon approval, the court will appoint you estate administrator and issue you "Letters"
  3. Follow the normal settlement process (publish notice of death, etc.) as outlined in your EstateExec Task list (see Sample Estate)
  4. Ensure all estate debts are paid
  5. Once 6 months have passed since your appointment, and before 1 year passes, e-file to the court a completed Waiver of Administration (Form NHJB-2144-Pe).
  6. Once the court approves your statement and closes the case, you can make any remaining distributions and follow any remaining steps in your EstateExec Task list

See NH Rev Stat § 553:32.

Summary Administration

If the estate does not meet the requirements for Waiver of Administration, you can slightly simplify probate by starting the normal probate process, then filing for Summary Administration in order to eliminate the requirements to file a Final Accounting and Distribution Receipts.


You can apply for summary administration if:

  • The estate has been in probate for at least 6 months
  • There are no unpaid debts or obligations
  • Any NH estate tax has been paid (and if paid, a certificate from the Department of Revenue Administration under RSA 87:26 has been filed with the court)
  • Any federal estate tax has been paid
  • Court supervision of the administration of the estate is no longer necessary


To settle an estate via summary administration:

  1. Follow all normal processes for normal probate
  2. Ensure all debts and obligations have been satisfied
  3. At least 6 months after the start of probate, file with the court a Motion for Summary Administration (Form NHJB-2149-P)
  4. Finish your duties by distributing the net estate to the rightful recipients

See NH Rev Stat § 553:33.

Estate Settlement Considerations

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

Since people commonly ask, note that NH does not support the notion of a small estate affidavit which allows heirs to collect estate assets with no court involvement.


In New Hampshire, the Probate Division of the local Circuit Court 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 NH.

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 NH.

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

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