The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Nevada offers a few probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, Nevada allows the property to be transferred more quickly and with less hassle. In other words, if your estate qualifies as "small," your loved ones may be able to use simplified probate procedures, or even skip probate entirely.
Nevada offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. To qualify, the estate (the property you own at death) must meet these requirements:
(Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 146.080.)
If your estate meets the requirements listed above, your inheritor can sign a simple document under oath, called a small estate affidavit. This document makes several statements, including that the estate meets the requirements set out above. It also describes the property being claimed.
Before you file the affidavit, you're also required to give any other beneficiaries written notice of your claim and a description of the property you are trying to transfer to yourself. You must do this at least 14 days before you file the affidavit. You must serve the beneficiaries by personal service or certified mail.
After signing the document (and swearing to its truthfulness) and having it notarized, the inheritor simply presents the affidavit to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account. The inheritor will usually also need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate. After that, the person or institution releases the asset. This process skips probate court entirely.
If the value of an estate doesn't exceed $100,000, a court can order all or part of the estate to be "set aside without administration," which means that the assets can be distributed directly, in the following order of priority:
(Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 146.070.) However, if there's a surviving spouse or minor children, the court must generally set aside the entire estate for the spouse or minor children, without first paying creditors.
Another probate shortcut that Nevada offers is a simplified probate process for small estates, called summary administration. Unlike the affidavit procedure discussed above, summary administration does not allow your survivors to skip probate. However, the probate process is more streamlined than full probate, saving some time, probate fees, and potentially lawyer fees.
You can petition the court to use summary administration in Nevada if the gross value of the entire probate estate (meaning all of the property that the deceased person left behind that is subject to probate) does not exceed $300,000. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 145.040.)
Using summary administration has two benefits over regular probate:
When you file your request, you'll need to pay a filing fee unless the estate is less than $2,500. After receiving your request, the court clerk will set a hearing date. Then you must give notice of the hearing (and notice of your request) to every inheritor and heir of the deceased person as well as to the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo) or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).
For more on Nevada estate planning issues, see our section on Nevada Estate Planning.