Estate Planning During COVID-19

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Many people during the COVID-19 Pandemic are dealing with the death of a loved one and are trying to figure out what to do with their estate. It can be very overwhelming to deal with these issues during these uncertain times. In Wyoming, there are different ways to deal with an estate without going through the probate process. There are different things to consider when doing your own estate plan.

An estate doesn’t have to go through probate if the estate is worth under $200,000, and if there is only personal property involved such as vehicles and bank accounts. The inheritor can draft a short statement, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. This affidavit is filed with the county clerk and given to the bank or entity in possession of the property.

You can use the small estate process in Wyoming for real estate if the value of the entire estate, including real estate and mineral interests, less liens and encumbrances, is $200,000 or less. There is a 30-day waiting period. You can file a Petition for Decree of Distribution with the District Court. There is a filing fee.

The petition must include the following information:

  • the relationship between the inheritor and the deceased person,
  • the legal right the inheritor has to the property,
  • a statement regarding whether any other inheritor has a right to the property, and
  • a full description regarding any real property or mineral interests the deceased person owned.

The inheritor must then:

  • Obtain a sworn statement from a broker about the value of any real property the deceased person owned,
  • publish a notice of the request once a week for two weeks in a newspaper published in the county where the request was filed, and
  • mail a copy of the request to the surviving spouse, other inheritors, and any known creditors within ten days from the first publication date.

The newspaper publisher must sign an affidavit that it published the notice, and the inheritor files this affidavit to the court.

Probate can be avoided when there is a marital home. When a husband and wife own real property as tenancy in the entireties, the surviving spouse can file an affidavit of survivorship with the county clerk. The affidavit must include the legal description of the property.

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During these challenging times, many people are wanting to draft a will. In Wyoming, you must be competent to draft a will. The will must be signed in front of two witnesses, and the witnesses must sign the will. The witness should not inherit in the will. In Wyoming, holographic wills are valid if the will is completely in the person’s handwriting and signed. A person can also file a Transfer on Death Deed with the county clerk to transfer real property upon death to avoid probate.

Hopefully, knowing there are different options to administer an estate and to plan for an estate will help during these difficult times. There are different resources out there to help the community. If you have questions, please call our hotline, 877-432-9955, Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Mountain time, and talk with one of our hotline attorneys.