The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Delaware 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 simplified probate procedure to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle.
Delaware offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. This procedure is informally called "small estate administration." To qualify, the estate must meet these requirements:
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, but must wait 30 days following the death to apply.
To begin the process, the inheritor should visit the probate court (called the "register of wills" in Delaware) in the county where the deceased person was living. The inheritor will need to bring a certified copy of the death certificate and a picture I.D. The inheritor will then fill out and sign under oath a document called a "small estate affidavit." This affidavit contains several statements, such as:
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 Delaware estate planning issues, see our section on Delaware Estate Planning.