Probate Shortcuts in Rhode Island

Save time and money when you wrap up an estate in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." This makes 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 the following probate shortcut -- saving time, money, and hassle.

Simplified Probate Procedures

Rhode Island has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an inheritor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the inheritor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.

You can use the simplified small estate process in Rhode Island if there is no real estate, and the value of property that would be subject to probate (not counting tangible personal property) doesn't exceed $15,000. There is a 30-day waiting period.

The request must contain the following information:

  • the inheritor’s name and address
  • the name, address, and date of death of the deceased person
  • the relationship between the inheritor and the deceased person
  • the names and addresses of known inheritors
  • an inventory of all property titled solely in the deceased person’s name and its value
  • a copy of the death certificate, and
  • a statement that the inheritor will distribute the remaining property according to the law.

The inheritor pays a small filing fee (currently $30), and the court clerk gives him or her a certification of appointment that allows the inheritor to collect the deceased person’s assets and sell them for cash, if desired. Before distributing assets to the inheritors, the inheritor must pay off debts and expenses in the following order:

  1. funeral expenses
  2. expenses of the last illness
  3. expenses of administration
  4. debts due to the United States
  5. debts due to the state and state and town taxes
  6. past and future child support obligations
  7. unpaid wages
  8. proceeds due to the Rhode Island state lottery
  9. debts filed within six months of notice of the death
  10. all other debts

R.I. Gen. Laws § 33-24-1.

For More Information

For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see see The Executor’s Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo) or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

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