The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Connecticut offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, your estate can use a procedure called "settlement without probate" to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle. (In other states, this simplified probate process is often called "summary probate" or "summary administration.")
You can use a small estate proceeding in Connecticut if:
Note that even if you own more property than $40,000, your survivors may still be able to take advantage of the small estate affidavit procedure. That's because under Connecticut law, certain types of property don't count, such as:
In other words, even relatively large estates might still qualify as a "small estate" for these purposes.
If the estate qualifies, the inheritor (with priority for the surviving spouse, and after that, the next of kin) can use this simplified probate procedure by filing an affidavit with the local probate court. This affidavit, called the Affidavit in Lieu of Probate of Will/ Administration (Form PC-212), contains:
The court then sends a copy of the affidavit to the Department of the Administrative Services. A 30-day waiting period ensues before the court and issue its order.
If there are more assets than debts in the estate, the representative will also need to file a Request for Order of Distribution (Form PC-212A), which lists the heirs (those who would inherit under Connecticut intestacy laws) as well as beneficiaries (those who inherit under the will, if there is one). This request asks the court to establish who will inherit the property.
Once the court issues its order (or "decree"), any person or institution (such as a bank) who has possession of the deceased person's property will need to transfer the property to the inheritors or the estate representative, as ordered by the court.
While this procedure may sound like it requires many steps, rest assured that the simplified probate procedure discussed here is much more streamlined than full probate. If your estate qualifies as a small estate, it won't have to jump through many of the hoops of full probate.
For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).
For more on Connecticut estate planning issues, see our section on Connecticut Estate Planning.