Buffalo residents who are taking the initiative and preparing for the future by having an estate plan should be aware of certain factors that will affect the process. Knowing the difference in how the estate is classified under the law is one key that should not be ignored. This is especially important with estate planning and probate as it will influence how the case is filed whether there was a will, other estate planning devices and more. Knowing what a small estate is and who will fall into this category is a foundational aspect.

If there was less than $30,000 in personal property in the estate, it will be categorized as a small estate. Technically, this is known as voluntary administration. With such an estate, it makes no difference whether there was a will or not. However, people will generally have an idea as to whom they want to be their heirs, where property should go and other factors. For cases in which there might have been a wrongful death or a potential lawsuit related to it, there should be a probate proceeding or an administration proceeding regardless of how much the personal property belonging to the decedent was worth.

The estate of a decedent who owned real property such as land or a home is not considered a small estate unless it was owned jointly with another person and there was less than $30,000 in personal property in the estate. When there is a small estate and a will, the executor of the will is named the voluntary administrator. With the small estate, the executor will file the original will as well as a certified copy of the death certificate. This will be done in the county in which the decedent resided.

Many people are unaware of the different classifications that the law dictates how an estate is viewed. Although the small estate has contingencies for people who died without a will (also known as dying intestate), it is always wise for a person to have an estate plan even if they do not have or do not believe they have significant assets. Discussing the situation with a law firm that is experienced in estate planning and probate can provide advice for how to structure an estate plan, small estate or not.