Probate Shortcuts in Rhode Island

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

Updated by , Attorney (University of Arkansas School of Law)

The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Rhode Island offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, your loved ones can use a procedure called "informal administration of small estates" to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle.

When Can You Use Informal Administration of Small Estates in Rhode Island?

You can use the simplified probate process in Rhode Island if:

  • the value of property that would be subject to probate (not counting tangible personal property) doesn't exceed $15,000
  • no petition for letters of administration or letters testamentary has been filed, and
  • 30 days have elapsed since the death.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § 33-24-1.)

Note that not all types of property are counted. Certain types of property aren't subject to probate, and therefore aren't included in the $15,000 threshold. Nonprobate property includes:

Similarly, tangible personal property (such as household furniture and items) aren't counted either. In other words, even relatively large estates might still qualify as a "small estate" for purposes of this proceeding.

Simplified Probate Procedures

To request informal administration of small estate, you would file a Petition for Voluntary Informal Administrator. This document includes information such as:

  • 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 as well.

The court clerk then provides 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(e) and § 33-12-11.)

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).

For more on Rhode Island estate planning issues, see our section on Rhode Island Estate Planning.

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