I have an estate of modest size, is there a less involved and less expensive way to obtain these funds without a formal probate?
There very well may be. Although the law is different from state to state, and the procedures/customs can even differ from county to county, most surrogate or probate courts, have expedited simplified proceedings for estates below a certain minimum size. Your best bet is to call the clerk in the Surrogate Court in the county where the decedent died and inquire as to the maximum amount of assets that can be transferred under their small estate procedure. If you qualify, request copies of their standard forms. If there are any complications involved, it might warrant having a short consultation with a local probate attorney. If you're the executor or administrator its worth having an initial consultation just to protect yourself from claims in case there are problems you wouldn't have seen or known about without professional help. If nothing else, look at the fee for the initial consultation to review the estate as an insurance policy for you. And don't say its just family. Blood may run thicker than water, but dollars may not run at all! If you do have that initial consultation, when making the appointment explain that it is a small estate and you want to minimize the time and expense and have the briefest of consultations just to make sure nothing is being overlooked. It might even be feasible to have the consultation with the attorney's associate or para-professional to minimize costs. If the estate is that simple, it may not require more. Remember this reply is a generic reply and should not be used without first seeking the advice of an attorney in your state.
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