Settling Small Estates (PW)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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Estate settlement in Palau is generally straightforward, but if necessary you can use an order of transfer.

Requirements (PW)

In Palau, you can use a Complaint for Transfer of Decedent's Personalty if the following conditions are true:

  • The adjusted probate value of the estate is <$1,000
  • The estate is solvent (i.e., can pay its debts)
  • You cannot readily obtain estate assets without a court order (otherwise, just handle things without court involvement)

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.


To settle an estate of limited value via Order of Transfer:

  1. Submit to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court or National Court a Petition for Transfer of Decedent's Personalty (see below)
  2. Upon approval, the court will an order directing the property to be transferred
  3. Use the order to collect estate assets (this order cannot be used to collect land)
  4. Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, make distributions)
  5. If you belatedly discover the estate cannot pay all its debts, stop, and report back to the court

See 25 PNC §§ 201 - 205 for statute details.

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


A Complaint for Transfer of Decedent's Personalty must include:

  • The name of the decedent, residence, and date of death
  • the names and addresses of the surviving spouse, children, siblings of the decedent, and of the eldest living brother of decedent's mother, or, if none of the above persons survived the decedent, the name, address, and relationship of the nearest surviving relative
  • A statement of the total value of the personal property
  • List the property, if any, that passed or is to pass by will, and to whom it went or is to go
  • A promise to pay, as far as the assets of the estate permit, the debts of the decedent, or to see that the debts are paid by someone authorized by local custom, and to distribute the balance, if any, to the person or persons entitled thereto

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any Family Entitlements in PW, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses. Personal representatives (i.e., executors) using this small estate process are not entitled to compensation, but any reasonable expenses should be reimbursed.

General estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so before distributing assets you should follow PW rules for finding estate debts and resolve any debts you find. 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.


Traditionally, PW estates were settled via eldecheduch, in which the extended family gathered together to decide what land, Palauan money, and houses would be given to the spouse of the deceased and to any children. This can sometimes become difficult to effect when trying to transfer contents of a bank account or a registered automobile, in which case you may need to use the process above, or full probate.

No Small Estate Affidavit

Many people ask about using a small estate affidavit without any court involvement, but PW does not support such an affidavit. You may be able to convince custodians of estate assets to simply give you rightful possession, but if not you will need to use a Complaint for Transfer of Decedent's Personalty.


In Palau, most of the decedent's property is distributed during eldecheduch. However, some assets (such as car registered solely to the decedent) require court authorization. Small estates without land are handled by the Court of Common Pleas, and larger estates by the Trial 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 PW.

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 PW.

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

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