Rhode Island Small Estates Law

Wills and Estates – Small Estates – Rhode Island

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Small Estates General Summary: Small Estate laws were enacted in order to enable heirs to obtain property of the deceased without probate, or with shortened probate proceedings, provided certain conditions are met. Small estates can be administered with less time and cost.  If the deceased had conveyed most property to a trust but there remains some property, small estate laws may also be available.  Small Estate procedures may generally be used regardless of whether there was a Will.  In general, the two forms of small estate procedures are recognized:

1.Small Estate Affidavit -Some States allow an affidavit to be executed by the spouse and/or heirs of the deceased and present the affidavit to the holder of property such as a bank to obtain property of  the deceased. Other states require that the affidavit be filed with the Court.  The main requirement before you may use an affidavit is that the value of the personal and/or real property of the estate not exceed a certain value.

2.Summary Administration -Some states allow a Summary administration. Some States recognize both the Small Estate affidavit and Summary Administration, basing the requirement of which one to use on the value of the estate. Example: If the estate value is 10,000 or less an affidavit is allowed but if the value is between 10,000 to 20,000 a summary administration is allowed.

Rhode Island Summary:
Under Rhode Island statute, where as estate is valued at less than $15,000, an interested party may, thirty (30) days after the death of the decedent, file with the probate court a verified statement, and be named as the voluntary administrator od the estate.  The law of Rhode Island imposes several responsibilities upon a voluntary administrator, please see below for details.

Rhode Island Requirements:
Rhode Island requirements are set forth in the statutes below.

TITLE 33 Probate practice and procedure
CHAPTER 33-24 Small Estates

§ 33-24-1  Voluntary informal administration of small estates. –

(a) If a resident of Rhode Island dies leaving an estate consisting entirely of personal property the total value of which otherwise subject to being listed on a probate inventory pursuant to § 33-9-1, exclusive of tangible personal property of which the decedent was owner, does not exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) in value, his or her surviving spouse, child, grandchild, parent, brother, sister, niece, nephew, aunt or uncle, or any interested party, if of full age and legal capacity and a resident of this state, may, after the expiration of thirty (30) days from the death of the decedent, provided no petition for letters testamentary or letters of administration has been filed with the probate court of the city or town in which the decedent resided, file with said probate court upon a form prescribed by the court a statement, verified by oath or affirmation containing:
(1) The name and residential address of the affiant,
(2) The name, residence and date of death of the deceased,
(3) The relationship of the affiant to the deceased,
(4) A schedule showing every asset known to the affiant titled solely in the decedent’s name and all assets known or believed to be titled in the decedent’s name as of the decedent’s date of death, and the estimated value of each such asset,
(5) A statement that the affiant has undertaken to act as voluntary administrator of the estate of the deceased and will administer the same according to law, and apply the proceeds thereof in conformity with this section,
(6) The names and addresses known to the affiant of the persons who would take under the provisions of Rhode Island general laws § 33-1-10 in the case of intestacy.

(b) Upon presentation of such statement, accompanied by a certificate of the death of the deceased and payment of a fee of thirty dollars ($30.00), the clerk of the probate court shall file these documents as a part of the permanent record of the court. Upon the payment of five dollars ($5.00), the clerk of the probate court shall, if no other probate proceeding for administration of such estate is pending in said court, issue a certification of appointment of voluntary administrator, but only after such certification has been reviewed by the judge of the probate court. No hearing in the probate court shall be required as a condition for the issuance of the certification by the clerk of the probate court; provided, however, that the probate judge may require a hearing to take place in order to determine whether such certification should issue.

(c) Upon the presentation of a copy of such a certification of appointment by the clerk of the probate court, the tender of a proper receipt in writing and the surrender of any policy, passbook, note, certificate or other evidentiary instrument, a voluntary administrator may, as the legal representative of the deceased and his or her estate, receive payment of any debt or obligation in the nature of a debt, or delivery of any chattel or asset, scheduled in such statement. Payments and deliveries made under this section shall discharge the liability of the debtor, obligor or deliverer to all persons with respect to such debt, chattel, obligation or other asset unless, at the time of such payment or delivery, a written demand has been made upon such debtor, obligor or deliverer by a duly appointed executor or administrator.

(d) A voluntary administrator may sell any chattel so received and negotiate or assign any choice in action to convert the same to cash in a reasonable amount.

(e) A voluntary administrator shall, as far as possible out of the assets which come into his or her hands, first discharge the necessary expenses of the funeral and last sickness of the deceased and the necessary expenses of administration without fee for his or her services, and then pay the debts of the deceased in the order specified in Rhode Island general laws § 33-12-11 and any other debts of the estate, and then distribute the balance, if any, to the surviving spouse, or, if there is no surviving spouse, to the persons and in the proportions prescribed by § 33-1-10.

(f) A voluntary administrator shall be liable as an executor in his or her own wrong to all persons aggrieved by his or her administration of the estate, and, if letters testamentary or letters of administration are at any time granted, shall be liable as such an executor to the rightful executor or administrator.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1966, ch. 178, § 1; P.L. 1967, ch. 65, § 1; P.L. 1968, ch. 93, § 1; P.L. 1973, ch. 134, § 1; P.L. 1977, ch. 72, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 68, § 1; P.L. 1983, ch. 204, § 4; P.L. 1998, ch. 448, § 1; P.L. 1999, ch. 484, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 389, § 2; P.L. 2011, ch. 363, § 10.)

§ 33-24-2  Administration of small estates where executor named in will –

(a) If a resident of Rhode Island dies leaving an estate that would otherwise be subject to being listed on a probate inventory pursuant to § 33-9-1, consisting entirely of personal property, the total value, exclusive of tangible personal property of which the decedent was owner, does not exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) in value, and he or she leaves a will naming a person as executor, the named person, if of full age and legal capacity, may, (or, if the named person declines or is unable to serve, then any person named as alternate, or, if such alternate declines or is unable to serve, then the surviving spouse, child, grandchild, parent, brother, sister, niece, nephew, aunt or uncle, or any interested party, if of full age and legal capacity and a resident of this state), after the expiration of thirty (30) days from the death of the decedent, provided no petition for letters testamentary or letters of administration has been filed with the probate court of the city or town in which the decedent resided, file with said probate court upon a form prescribed by the court a statement, verified by oath or affirmation containing:
(1) The name and residential address of the affiant,
(2) The name, residence and date of death of the deceased,
(3) The relationship of the affiant to the deceased,
(4) A schedule showing every asset known to the affiant titled solely in the decedent’s name and all assets known or believed to be titled in the decedent’s name as of the decedent’s date of death and the estimated value of each such asset,
(5) A statement that the affiant has undertaken to act as voluntary administrator of the estate of the deceased and will administer the same according to law, and apply the proceeds thereof in conformity with this section,
(6) The names and addresses known to the affiant of the persons who would take under the provisions of Rhode Island general laws § 33-1-10 in the case of intestacy, and
(7) The names and addresses known to the affiant of the persons who would take under the provisions of the will.

(b) The original of the will shall be filed with the above statement and if the executor resides outside the state he or she shall appoint a resident agent to represent him or her in the state.

(c) Upon presentation of such statement, accompanied by a certificate of the death of the deceased and payment of a fee of thirty dollars ($30.00), the clerk of the probate court shall file these documents as a part of the permanent record of the court. Upon the payment of five dollars ($5.00), the clerk of the probate court shall, if no other probate proceeding for administration of such estate is pending in said court, issue a certification of appointment of executor, but only after such certification has been reviewed by the judge of the probate court. No hearing in the probate court shall be required as a condition for the issuance of the certification by the clerk of the probate court; provided, however, that the probate judge may require a hearing to take place in order to determine whether such certification should issue.

(d) Upon the presentation of a copy of such a certification of appointment by the clerk of the probate court, the tender of a proper receipt in writing and the surrender of any policy, passbook, note, certificate or other evidentiary instrument, a voluntary executor may, as the legal representative of the deceased and his or her estate, receive payment of any debt or obligation in the nature of a debt, or delivery of any chattel or asset, scheduled in such statement. Payments and deliveries made under this section shall discharge the liability of the debtor, obligor or deliverer to all persons with respect to such debt, chattel, obligation or other asset unless, at the time of such payment or delivery, a written demand has been made upon such debtor, obligor or deliverer by a duly appointed executor or administrator.

(e) A voluntary executor may sell any chattel so received and negotiate or assign any choice in action to convert the same to cash in a reasonable amount.

(f) A voluntary executor shall, as far as possible out of the assets which come into his or her hands, first discharge the necessary expenses of the funeral and last sickness of the deceased and the necessary expenses of administration without fee for his or her services, and then pay the debts of the deceased in the order specified in Rhode Island general laws § 33-12-11 and any other debts of the estate, and then distribute the balance, if any, according to the terms of the will, and should that prove impossible, the balance to the surviving spouse, or, if there is no surviving spouse, to the persons and in the proportions prescribed by § 33-1-10.

(g) A voluntary executor shall be liable as an executor in his or her own wrong to all persons aggrieved by his or her administration of the estate, and, if letters testamentary or letters of administration are at any time granted, shall be liable as such an executor to the rightful executor or administrator.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1966, ch. 178, § 1; P.L. 1967, ch. 65, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 448, § 1; P.L. 1999, ch. 484, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 389, § 2; P.L. 2011, ch. 363, § 10.)

Related Rhode Island Legal Forms


Inside Rhode Island Small Estates Law