Ordinarily, when someone dies, the method to pay off creditors and distribute the remainder of the estate is a court-supervised process called probate. However, when someone dies with relatively few assets, many states allow simplified procedures to close out the estate.
Some states allow surviving family members to settle a small estate using an out-of-court “small estate affidavit.” Other states offer an in-court “simplified probate” procedure, which is more involved than the affidavit process. Some states (like Illinois) offer a choice between the two. This article will describe the benefits and drawbacks of closing out estates using a small estate affidavit.