Indiana offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." If your loved one died and left property behind, you might be able to transfer that property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all. If so, you'll be able to save some of the time, money, and hassle associated with regular probate.
A "small estate" might be one with a small value (defined by state law), or one that is particularly uncomplicated. Below, learn the rules for qualifying for one of Indiana's probate shortcuts, and find out whether you can ultimately skip or speed up probate.
Indiana has a procedure (called "dispensing with administration") that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. As an inheritor, all you would have to do is prepare a short document, stating that you're entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is often known as a small estate affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account—gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset. You won't have to go through probate court.
In Indiana, an affidavit procedure is available in the following situations:
This out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Indiana if the value of the gross probate estate, less liens and encumbrances and reasonable funeral expenses, does not exceed $50,000 (for deaths before or on June 30, 2022) or $100,000 (for deaths after June 30, 2022) (Ind. Code § 29-1-8-1). Note that property that passes outside of probate is not counted, so even relatively large estates might qualify for the small estate affidavit if the deceased person made plans to avoid probate.
After a 45-day waiting period (Ind. Code § 29-1-8-1), the inheritor can submit Indiana's Small Estate Affidavit (Form 54985). The inheritor must also notify all other inheritors of the plans to submit this affidavit to the court.
This process can be used for actions such as:
For real estate, you might also find that you can transfer title simply by recording an affidavit (known as a "passage of title affidavit," or sometimes as a "devolution affidavit") with the recorder's office of the Indiana county where the real estate is located. (Ind. Code § 29-1-7-23.) There's no value limit on this procedure, but there are other restrictions:
If you don't qualify for the affidavit procedures described above, you'll likely need to go through probate. However, Indiana does offer a simplified version of probate, known as administration without court supervision (or unsupervised administration), which is available to many estates. It requires very minimal court supervision, and if you use this simplified procedure, you can skip some steps of regular probate.
(Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-7.5-2.)
Administration without court supervision is the most common type of probate procedure in Indiana. If the estate doesn't qualify for this simplified procedure or is particularly complicated, a fully supervised probate procedure will be required, and this process will be more cumbersome, lengthy, and expensive.
For more information on probate in Indiana, also see the following Nolo articles:
Nolo also offers several resources and tools to help with Indiana probate. If you're an executor or personal representative of an estate and tasked with wrapping up a loved one's property, you can consult a probate attorney or the comprehensive book The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), for further help.
On the other hand, if you're interested in actively planning now to minimize probate costs for your loved ones after your death, consider these next steps: