Small Estate

Small estates can present unique legal considerations and advantages.

Thus, it makes it crucial for individuals to comprehend their implications fully.

This article provides an in-depth examination of small estates in wills.

It will also highlight their definition, characteristics, and associated legal processes.

What Are Small Estates?

In the context of a will, a small estate typically refers to an estate with a total value.

It will also fall below a specific threshold set by state law.

This threshold varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time due to legislative updates.

In most cases, small estates are characterized by their limited asset value.

It makes them eligible for simplified probate procedures or alternative legal mechanisms.

Characteristics Of Small Estates

Understanding the key characteristics of small estates is fundamental to navigating the legal intricacies surrounding them:

Asset Value: 

Small estates generally consist of personal property, bank accounts, or real estate assets whose total value is less than the statutory threshold. 

This value may exclude certain assets like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or jointly-owned properties with survivorship rights.

Simplified Probate: 

Small estates often benefit from streamlined probate processes, enabling faster and more cost-effective estate administration. 

These simplified procedures aim to alleviate the burden on the court system and the estate’s beneficiaries.

Affidavit Of Small Estate: 

In many jurisdictions, heirs or beneficiaries of small estates can use an affidavit, commonly known as an “Affidavit of Small Estate,” to claim the assets.

It will be without the need for formal probate proceedings. This affidavit provides a sworn statement affirming the estate’s small size and the claimant’s legal right to the assets.

Example 1: John’s Simple Will

Background Scenario:

John is a single individual who owns a small house, a car, and has some savings in his bank account. He has a few sentimental possessions like family heirlooms and a collection of rare books.

Will Content:

“I, John Smith, being of sound mind and disposing of a modest estate, hereby declare this to be my last will and testament. I leave my house located at [address] to my nephew, James. My car, a [make and model], goes to my friend, Sarah. I leave my entire bank account balance to my sister, Mary. My collection of rare books shall be donated to the local library.”


In this example, John’s estate is relatively small, consisting of a house, a car, a bank account, and some personal belongings.

He clearly states who should inherit each specific asset in his will, making it straightforward for his beneficiaries to understand and execute his wishes.

Example 2: Susan’s Simple Will

Background Scenario:

Susan is a retired schoolteacher and a widow with no children. She owns a small cottage by the lake and has a beloved pet cat named Whiskers. She also has a savings account and a collection of artwork she has collected over the years.

Will Content:

“I, Susan Miller, being of sound mind and with a modest estate, hereby make my last will and testament. I leave my cottage by the lake to my niece, Emily. My beloved cat, Whiskers, shall be entrusted to the care of my dear friend, Lisa, along with a sum of $5,000 for Whiskers’ well-being. I bequeath my savings account to my favorite charity, the Humane Society. Finally, my collection of artwork shall be sold, and the proceeds donated to the local school for art education.”


Susan’s estate consists of a cottage, a pet cat, a savings account, and an art collection.

In her will, she specifies the beneficiaries for each asset, including her niece, her friend, and a charity.

She also provides instructions for the care of her pet cat and how she wishes her art collection to benefit the local community.

These examples illustrate how individuals with small estates can create clear and concise wills to distribute their assets and express their wishes effectively.

It’s important to consult with a legal professional when creating a will to ensure that it complies with applicable laws and regulations.