Settling Small Estates (VT)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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Full probate is not required for "small" estates in Vermont, 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.

Small Estate Requirements

In Vermont, an estate qualifies as "small" if its fair market value is <$45,000 and it contains no real property (i.e., real estate), other than any qualified timeshares.

In calculating estate value, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any debts. 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.


If the estate qualifies as small, you can simplify the probate process as follows:

  1. Submit to the court a Petition to Open Small Estate (see below)
  2. The court may require you to obtain a bond for the value of the estate, or you can also submit a Bond Waiver (Form 700-00004) for each interested person
  3. Provide a copy of the petition to each interested person that did not sign the petition, and submit to the court a Certificate of Service (Form 100-00264) stating that you have made the required notifications
  4. If at least 14 days have passed since every required notice was received, and there are no objections, the court will appoint you as personal representative for the estate, and grant you "Letters"
  5. Use your "Letters" to obtain estate assets from current custodians, and settle the estate in the normal manner (pay all obligations, distribute assets)
  6. When making distributions, it is good practice to obtain a Receipt (Form P 153)
  7. If there are any vehicles involved, you must also transfer the titles at the DMV
  8. Submit to the court a Report of Fiduciary for Small Estate (Form 700-00055): consider attaching an EstateExec Final Accounting Report

For statute details, see 14 V.S.A. § 1901 et seq.


Fill out a Petition to Open Small Estate (Form 700-00001SM), and attach:

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any Family Entitlements in VT, 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 VT, 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 VT 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 VT does not support such an affidavit. You must use above method (or full probate) for handling small estates in VT.


In Vermont, the local Probate Division of the County Superior Court handles wills and estate probate, If you are using EstateExec and you enter the decedent's county of legal residence on the Decedent tab, you will see a direct link to the appropriate court here.

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 VT.

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 VT.

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

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