New Mexico offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." These procedures make it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all -- by using an affidavit. And that saves time, money, and hassle.
Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)
New Mexico has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an 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.
The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in New Mexico if:
For this second option, the surviving spouse records an affidavit with the clerk of the county where the principal residence is located. The affidavit should state that:
The surviving spouse attaches a copy of the home’s deed to the affidavit.
New Mexico has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.
You can use the simplified small estate process in New Mexico if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, doesn't exceed personal property allowance, family allowance, costs of administration, reasonable funeral expenses, and medical expenses of the last illness. The executor can immediately distribute the remaining assets to the inheritors after filing a closing statement without giving notice to creditors. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 45-3-1203.
The closing statement must say that the value of the estate was less than the amounts described above and that the executor distributed the assets to the inheritors. The executor sends a copy of the statement to the inheritors and known creditors. He or she must also give a full accounting to the inheritors. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 45-3-1204.
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).