Probate Shortcuts in Vermont

Save time and money when you wrap up a simple estate in Vermont.

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Vermont offers a probate shortcut for "small estates" and another shortcut for estates of any size.

If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, your estate can use a procedure called a "small estate proceeding" to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle. (In other states, this simplified probate process often is called "summary probate" or "summary administration.") If you only have one inheritor and your estate contains no real estate, it also could qualify for another shortcut called "waiver of administration."

When Can You Use a Small Estate Proceeding in Vermont?

You can use a small estate proceeding in Vermont if:

  • the fair market value of the estate doesn't exceed $45,000, and
  • the estate doesn't contain any real estate (outside of a timeshare, as defined by Vt. Stat. tit. 32 § 3619).

(Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1901 (2024).)

The Steps of a Small Estate Proceeding in Vermont

Below is an overview of Vermont's small estate procedure. While it sounds like there are many steps, rest assured that the procedure is much more streamlined than full probate. If your estate qualifies as a small estate, it won't have to jump through many of the hoops of full probate.

Opening a Small Estate in Probate Court

First, someone has to take charge of the probate process by filing with the probate court a Petition to Open Small Estate. If the deceased person left behind a will, the executor will usually file this application.

The petition names the proposed executor or administrator (the "personal representative" who will handle the probate process), and collects the names and signatures of "interested persons" (those who will inherit property) who consent to the proceeding. The following must also be submitted:

  • the original will (if there was one)
  • an original death certificate
  • a List of Interested Persons (those who might inherit property, either under a will or under state laws)
  • an inventory of the property in the estate, including the value of each asset
  • an affidavit that lists all paid and outstanding funeral expenses, as well as any debts of the deceased person
  • a bond without surety (meaning the bond doesn't need to be guaranteed) in the amount of the fair market value of the estate, and
  • a filing fee.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1901 (2024).)

If an interested person doesn't consent to the small estate proceeding, they must be provided with notice of the petition, and they will then have 14 days to file an objection with the probate court. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1901 (2024).)

The Probate Court Issues Letters of Administration

If no interested person objects within 14 days of receiving notice, the probate court admits the will (if there was one) and issues "letters" to the personal representative. This document authorizes the personal representative to act. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 §§ 1901, 1902 (2024).)

The Personal Representative Pays Debts and Distributes Property

Once you're appointed as the personal representative, you'll have many of the standard duties of an executor or personal representative. For example, you'll use the estate assets to pay any estate debts.

Unlike regular probate, however, you're not required to give notice to creditors. In regular probate in Vermont, there's a four-month period for creditors to make their claims; with a small estate proceeding, you can skip this waiting period. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1203 (2024).)

After debts are paid, you'll distribute the remaining property to the inheritors. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1903 (2024).)

Closing the Small Estate Proceeding

When you're done, you'll need to provide an accounting to the court. You'll file a Report of Fiduciary for Small Estate, which lists the property you collected and the distributions you made. You'll also attach any relevant receipts. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1903 (2024).)

When Can You Use Waiver of Administration in Vermont?

A person can use waiver of administration in Vermont if:

  • the estate isn't using the small estate proceeding
  • the estate doesn't contain any real estate in Vermont
  • the person applying for waiver of administration is the only beneficiary under the will or the only heir if the deceased person had no will, and
  • the person applying for waiver of administration is in fact the only executor or administrator of the estate (no one else has been appointed).

Waiver of administration is available regardless of the size of the estate, and it can be used whether or not the deceased person had a will. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 §§ 1851, 1852 (2024).)

The Steps of a Waiver of Administration Proceeding in Vermont

Waiver of administration proceedings have fewer steps than small estate proceedings. Below is an overview of Vermont's waiver of administration procedure.

Motion for Waiver of Administration

A person can file a motion for waiver of administration with the initial petition to open the estate for probate. If probate already is open, the executor or administrator can file the motion any time before the accounting (a step in the probate process) is due. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1852 (2024).)

The motion must be made under oath and must state that:

  • the person requesting waiver of administration is the sole beneficiary of the decedent's will (or the sole heir if there's no will)
  • the person requesting waiver of administration is named as the sole executor of the estate in the deceased person's will (or is willing to serve as sole administrator if there's no will)
  • the person requesting the waiver is in fact the sole executor or administrator (no one else has been appointed)
  • the deceased person owned no real estate in Vermont, and
  • the estate can be administered without supervision of the probate court.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1852 (2024).)

If the court finds that the above statements are true, it may issue an order that relieves the administrator or executor from completing most probate steps, including filing an inventory of the estate's assets. The only required remaining court filing is the affidavit of administration. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1852 (2024).)

Affidavit of Administration

If the court grants the motion for waiver of administration, the executor or administrator must ensure that all obligations of the estate, like taxes, are met. Remember that the administrator or executor must be the sole inheritor. So, after all debts and taxes are paid and the court closes the estate, the balance of the estate will belong to the executor or administrator.

To close the estate, the executor or administrator must file an affidavit of administration with the court between six months and one year of being appointed. The affidavit must state that:

  • there are no outstanding expenses, unpaid debts, obligations, or claims, and no taxes are due to the state, and
  • tax clearance has been received from the Department of Taxes.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1853 (2024).)

If the executor or administrator fails to file the affidavit of administration, the court may order that waiver of administration is no longer available (in other words, the estate will have to go through probate). Upon filing of the affidavit, the court will close the probate case if it determines that the executor or administrator has paid all taxes and debts. (Vt. Stat. tit. 14 § 1853, 1854 (2024).)

For More Information

For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

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

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