Q: I just received a petition for settlement of a small estate. What do I do now? I’m one of the 3 heirs of my mother’s estate. My stepfather is the one taking care of this business. There is also a waiver of a 20-day notice sheet and an ‘order’ sheet. Are these basic forms to be signed in order to get what she left behind? Is there anything I should look out for?
A: Settling an estate by small estates petition is less time consuming and less expensive than settling and estate by filing for probate then closing the estate informally by the filing of a Family Agreement or formally by First and Final Account with the court. It is used when the assets are under 25k and do not include real estate. You have the right to not agree to this and hold it up if you want. However, you should call the attorney and ask him how much you might receive, if any, and exactly what assets were left by your mother. If you are not satisfied with his explanation or he won’t return your call, you can either 1) consult with an attorney who will do this for you or 2) show up in court on the date of presentation of the petition (for which you will receive notice) and express your dissatisfaction to the judge. The judge will set the matter for a conference, at which time your questions hopefully will be answered.