The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Idaho offers a few probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, or if your estate is very uncomplicated, Idaho allows the property to be transferred more quickly and with less hassle. In other words, your loved ones may be able to use simplified probate procedures, or even skip probate entirely.
Idaho offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. To qualify, the estate must meet these requirements:
(Idaho Code § § 15-3-1201.) The affidavit also can't be used to transfer real estate—only "personal property," which is essentially everything but real estate.
If your estate meets the requirements listed above, all your inheritor has to do is fill out a simple document, called an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property Pursuant to Small Estate Proceeding. This document states that the estate meets the requirements set out above, and also describes the property being collected. The inheritor will sign the document under oath and have it notarized.
Next, the inheritor goes to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account—and presents the following:
After that, the person or institution releases the asset. This process skips probate court entirely.
Another probate shortcut that Idaho offers is a simplified probate process for small estates, called "summary administration" (or "summary probate"). Unlike the affidavit procedure discussed above, summary administration does not allow your survivors to skip probate. However, the probate process is much more streamlined than full probate, saving time, probate fees, and potentially lawyer fees.
You can use summary administration in Idaho if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed the value of:
(Idaho Code §§ 15-3-1203.) So what does all this mean? It's tricky not to have an exact dollar amount to compare against the size of your estate, but it really depends on your circumstances—for example, whether you leave behind a spouse and/or children.
The bottom line is that if the size of your estate doesn't exceed these amounts, which can be set aside from your estate by law, your executor or personal representative can wrap up your estate in probate court very quickly because there aren't any remaining assets after these amounts are paid out.
To begin summary administration in Idaho, you'll have to open a probate case in probate court, just like regular probate. You'll also request to be appointed as the personal representative. However, you'll be able to skip these steps of regular probate:
Once the court has approved, and you've distributed all of the property, you'll file a closing statement with the court. You'll also send a copy of the statement to anyone who received property and any creditors.
A surviving spouse of the deceased person who is inheriting everything can also use a simplified probate procedure, regardless of the value of the estate. The surviving spouse will need to do the following:
(Idaho Code § 15-3-1205.) Once the court issues a decree (which states that the surviving spouse was married to the deceased person, and that the surviving spouse is the sole inheritor), all property can be transferred to the surviving spouse. There's no further probate proceedings, closing statements, or waiting periods required.
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 Idaho estate planning issues, see our section on Idaho Estate Planning.