The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Wyoming offers two probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, Wyoming 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.
Wyoming offers a procedure, called "distribution by affidavit," that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. To qualify, the estate (the property you own at death) must meet these requirements:
(Wyo. Stat. § 2-1-201.) Note that not all property counts toward that $200,000 limit, since certain types of property aren't subject to probate. These include:
So even relatively large estates might still qualify as a "small estate" for purposes of the affidavit procedure.
If your estate meets the requirements listed above, your inheritor can sign a simple document under oath, called a "small estate affidavit" or "affidavit for distribution." 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.
Another probate shortcut that Wyoming offers is a simplified probate process for small estates, called "summary procedure" or "summary distribution." Unlike the affidavit procedure discussed above, summary procedure doesn't allow your survivors to skip probate. However, the process is much more streamlined than full probate, saving time, probate fees, and potentially lawyer fees.
You can use summary procedure in Wyoming if the value of the entire estate, including real estate and mineral interests, less liens and encumbrances, is $200,000 or less. You must wait 30 days after the death before using this procedure. (Wyo. Stat. § 2-1-205.)
To use it, an inheritor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the summary procedure. The inheritor must then:
If the deceased person received state medical assistance, inheritor must also give a copy of the request to the state department of health. Wyo. Stat. § 2-1-205.
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 Wyoming estate planning issues, see our section on Wyoming Estate Planning.