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Probate Attorney in Providence, RI | Probate Lawyer Providence, RI*

* Licensed in the States of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Florida

Probate Attorney in Providence, RI who you can trust to fulfill their legal duties to properly execute your will or trust in probate court – Pitts & Burns Attorneys at Law

Pitts & Burns are probate attorney in Providence, RI. You can count on us to faithfully execute your estate or will in probate court.

Probate of estates and wills involves a legal process that commences, when required, after one’s death. The law governing the rights of the deceased, the heirs and the creditors during this process is very complex. You will work with a representative of your choosing to protect and distribute the assets of your estate as you so desire.

With careful estate planning during your life, probate of your will can more often than not be avoided. Unfortunately, many individuals wait too long or fight the idea of early estate planning leaving their assets at risk. Whatever the reason, if assets continue to be in your name alone after your demise, they must be probated in accordance with the Laws of the State and/or in accordance with your Last Will and Testament. With more than 24 years of experience as a probate lawyer in Providence, RI, Pitts & Burns, Attorneys at Law, is able to effectively assist your legal representative in carrying out your last wishes with as little governmental and creditor interference as possible.

Rhode Island Probate Court

The probate process, as with any legal proceeding, involves technical aspects. Creditors are notified, legal notices are posted in the newspaper, deadlines are created, and Executors or Administrators are instructed on how and when to distribute the assets.

With any probate process, it becomes important to hire a law firm that is familiar with the probate laws and the individual probate Courts. Hiring the right law firm will result in a smoother and more efficient handling and distribution of the deceased’s assets to his or her beneficiaries.

Contact a Providence, Rhode Island Lawyer Today

If you are seeking legal representation or would like more information about our services, contact our office today for an initial consultation. You can reach us toll free at 401-453-2800 or by contacting our probate lawyer in Provience, RI.

Probate FAQs

What is probate and is it always necessary?

Probate or Administration, depending on whether the decedent had a Last Will and Testament or not, is basically the process of distributing assets and paying off debts (taxes, last illness bills, etc.). If the decedent did not have any assets or liabilities solely in his/her name, neither process will usually be necessary.

First, you must determine if there was a Will. The Will may be in a variety of places. First it may have been retained by the law office that authored the document. More often than not, the Will is in the possession of the decedent. Although many times the decedent has entrusted the document with his/her named Executor. If the decedent has a "strong box" or a safe deposit box, it is most likely there. What used to be a popular choice, but rarely used now, is to file the Will with the probate office of the Town/City where the decedent resided.

Once you have made this determination, you should be retaining a probate attorney. Noteworthy, the attorney you utilize does not have to be the one that drafted the Will, if any.

Next, you will need to gather a list of all assets and examine the decedent's title to same. The attorney will aid you in separating out the probate from the non-probate assets. The following is what has to be assessed in making that determination:

  • Joint ownership with right of survivorship
  • Whether the asset held jointly was created for purposes of convenience only
  • Did Will confirm all Joint tenancies (RIGL Section 31-3.1-37)
  • Did the co-joint tenant(s) actually contribute to the asset or was it a gift
  • If there is an insurance policy, retirement fund or death benefit, who is named as beneficiary? Is that person alive? Is there an alternate named? Has the estate been named
  • Are assets held in an inter vivos trust that extends benefits to others after the demise of the decedent
  • Is the personal property of the nature that can be conveyed outside probate, i.e. automobile, personalty, etc.

What type of estate should be opened?

The "Small Estate" statute applies when the assets of the decedent are valued at $15,000 or less (RIGL, Section 33-24-1), and there is a Will. If so, then an affidavit containing the following assertions is presented thirty (30) days after the date of death along with a filing fee, paid funeral bill and death certificate:

  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.

The best example of an informal administration is the utilization of the aforementioned "Small Estate" statute. The advantages of this form of administration are as follows:

  • Just present Will, Affidavit, Paid Funeral Bill, Death certificate and a nominal fee.
  • Avoid probate Court hearings, advertising, Petitions, Notice requirements to heirs, beneficiaries and creditors, Detailed inventories and Accounts

The disadvantages of the informal administration are as follows:

  • No approval of Will
  • No guarantee that someone is not going to subsequently going to open Probate or an Administration and contest Will
  • Original petitioner's liability is never formally discharged
  • Original petitioner may find that he/she is personally liable for estate expenses or disbursements never properly made
  • Subsequent petitioner could upset any title transfers

If you are not able to utilize the "small estate" administration, then we will begin the Probate process.

After meeting with the attorney, a decision needs to be made as to who the estate petitioner will be.

Next, a date of death value must be placed on the descent's probate assets. This value, the petitioner's name, and a list of the heirs names and addresses will be utilized in either the completion of the Petition to open Probate or an Administration.

When a decedent dies with a valid Last Will and Testament, it will be necessary to file a Petition to Probate the Will.

When a decedent dies without a Will or the Will has not been approved by the Court, the petitioner will file an Administration Petition .

The Petitioner will then secure a Probate Court date from the Court in the Town/City the decedent resided in and send certified notice of same to the heirs and beneficiaries under the Will, if it exists.

At the time of filing the appropriate petition, a probate fee will be due the Court. The fee is based on the value of the personal estate (not real estate) suggested on the Petition.

The petition will be advertised by the Court to alert any party in interest, including heirs and possible claimants, and creditors.

At the hearing the Probate Judge will call all parties in interest that are present to his/her bench. Then the issues before the Court is the appointment of the fiduciary, approval of the Last Will and Testament and the determination of what type and amount of a bond will be required, if necessary.

Once the fiduciary is appointed then a certificate will be prepared by the Court and that along with a blank inventory will be sent out to either the attorney or fiduciary.

At this point several decisions have to be made:

  • Who will be compiling a list of all probate and non-probate assets
  • Locating assets
  • Securing assets
  • Documenting assets, i.e. furniture, furnishing, personalty
  • Having assets appraised with date of death values.
  • Who will apply for a Employer Identification Number (IRS form SS-4) for the Estate
  • Which assets will be liquidated
  • Who will collect the assets
  • How assets will be invested during the period of Probate
  • What investments of the decedent need to be retained in their current form because, one, its in the estate's best interest, or two, the Will provides for specific disbursements of assets in their current form
  • Who will facilitate the transfer of non-probate assets like life insurance policies or death benefits
  • Who will retain the necessary professionals, i.e. appraisers, brokers, accountants, etc.
  • Who will open the fiduciary account, maintain the account and make deposits and disbursements
  • Who will notice creditors
  • Who will insure utilities and municipal expenses are either paid or cancelled, if appropriate
  • Who will cancel continuing obligations, i.e. credit cards
  • Who will witness and inventory any safe deposit box
  • The Executor must now give Notice to all interested parties. The most important notices are the following:
  • Notice of the Probate hearing to all of the heirs and beneficiaries under the Will within ten (10) days of hearing.
  • Notice to all known creditors of the decedent within thirty (30) days of the fiduciary's appointment. Said notice will advise creditors that Probate has been commenced.
  • Notice to heirs and beneficiaries under the Will of the hearing date to have the Final Accounting approved by the Court.

Who will be the Executor or Administrator?

Typically in the instance of Probating a Will the testator has designated his/her choices of Executor. It will usually be that individual that will petition the Probate Court to both open probate and also be appointed as the estate's fiduciary.

If there is no Will, then usually someone will come forward who is willing to handle the affairs of the Estate in the position of a fiduciary and will petition the Probate Court to open an Administration and also be appointed.

In both instances, notice will be given to all the heirs at law of this petition and the date of hearing. If all the heirs consent to these two items then they can assent to the petition and avoid advertising. This saves the estate a little money, but more importantly, it allows the estate to be opened more quickly.

If consent of all heirs is not acquired then publication in the local newspaper will be necessary.

Notice of said hearing and a copy of the Will, if applicable, will be sent to the heirs by certified mail at least ten (10) days in advance of the hearing.

At the first hearing, both the estate's petitioner, estate attorney and any parties in interest, including qualified objectors, will be called to be heard by the Judge. If there are no objections, the Probate Judge will open the appropriate estate, appoint the fiduciary and request a bond, with or without corporate surety, based on the value of the estate.

In most cases where a Will exists, the testator has waived the requirement of a bond especially if a family member is designated as fiduciary.

If there is a qualified objector, there will be a hearing as to the appropriateness of either appointing the designated petitioner as fiduciary or some other individual.

Once the Executor or Administrator has been chosen, it is time to collect and inventory the estate.

Many attorneys that are concerned that assets will not be properly held, managed, accounted for and/or disbursed in accordance with the Will, will keep control over the assets. Just as many attorneys rely on the estate's fiduciary to collect, hold and manage the estate assets and liabilities.

Regardless, all assets of the estate need to be collected, inventoried and many times sold and deposited in one account.

If the estate fiduciary has first hand knowledge of what assets exist, that's wonderful. Many times though, one cannot be sure if a full accounting of assets has been made. One method of determining what assets exist is to examine the prior years Federal and State income tax returns, especially any capital gains/loss schedules and ordinary interest entries.

In addition, hopefully, the decedent kept a record of his/her assets in one place. Many times they are kept in a "strong box" of safe deposit box. You can also look for clues by monitoring the decedent's mail, i.e. bank statements.

Unfortunately, Rhode Island does not have any centralized system to locate bank accounts, securities or real estate. Therefore, it is imperative to check town hall real estate records and the tax rolls for tangible property.

As for cash, you need to send letters along with the fiduciary appointment letter to all larger and local banks inquiring as to whether the decedent had any open accounts.

The following may be of some aid in both locating assets securing them and gathering necessary information that will be necessary for probating same:

Furniture, furnishings and personalty

  • Have locks changed on doors to all homes to secure contents
  • Take either pictures or video of each room with its belongings
  • List items, i.e. Automobiles, furniture, jewelry, collections, etc.
  • Have professional estate appraiser assess value
  • If asset in possession of third part, request it

Realty

  • Get exact address, Assessor Plat and Lot numbers and Assessed value
  • Have property appraised and request comparative analysis as to date of death value(s)
  • Have locks changed
  • Inquire if municipal fees and mortgage are paid to date

Contents of Safe Deposit Box

  • If the Will is in there, Court permission will be necessary
  • If box is registered to more than one person, that person will have access, so there is an immediate need to seal box and/or inventory
  • The appointed fiduciary will be allowed to view box
  • The inventory should be completed in the presence of an objective non party in interest
  • A detailed accounting of box should be completed

Bank Accounts and Other Securities

  • Locate Bank Accounts
  • Review past tax returns
  • Look at mail
  • Look at financial records
  • Send out inquiry letters to all larger and local banks
  • Record :
  • Name of financial institution
  • Account numbers
  • Type of account
  • Date of death values
  • Owner of accounts
  • Open Fiduciary Account
  • Either secure investment in estate's name or liquidate
  • Locate Security Accounts
  • Review past tax returns
  • Look at mail
  • Look at financial records
  • Send out inquiry letters to all investment firms
  • Record :
  • Name of financial institution
  • Account numbers
  • Type of account
  • Date of death values
  • Owner of accounts
  • Number of shares
  • Open Fiduciary Account
  • Either secure investment in estate's name or liquidate

Miscellaneous

  • Search decedent's records and Courts for any pending law suits
  • Inquire as to any social security benefits
  • Is there any income tax refund due

If necessary the petitioner may seek an emergency custodianship to secure assets if necessary.

What is an "inventory" and what needs to be prepared to complete it?

The preparation of the inventory is not only important from the perspective of providing a reference point for the entire probate process, it is also mandated by RIGL, Section 33-91. The inventory list will determine how much the probate fee will be (RIGL, Section 33-22-21), how much the value of the assets in the estate's possession were worth on the date of death, document what personal property was included in the probate.

Usually a Inventory form is sent to the estate fiduciary with his/her appointment papers. Thereafter, the form must be completed under oath and filed within ninety (90) days (RIGL, Section 33-9-1). More often than not, the fiduciary is charged with both appraising the assets and reporting them on said inventory. The fiduciary may look to professional appraisers to complete this task.

It is after the fiduciary has a complete list of all assets that he/she will separate the probate from the non-probate items.

What is a claim?

Claims against the estate come in differing forms. There is the obvious claims filed by the descent's creditors for non-payment of obligations. Then there are the claims of relatives and friends of the decent that are not pleased with the dispositions of the Will that very likely omitted them. In this category are also those who will contest the Will on the grounds of grandpa not understanding the Will he signed because of his confused state of mind, or the even better example, of the pretty young nurse who gets it all.

The least familiar claim is that of continuing obligations with municipalities, utility companies or credit card companies. The law firm or fiduciary should immediately notify these types of creditors of the customer's death , where future bills should be sent and in many cases the desire to terminate the account, i.e. credit cards.

Many times if you contact the credit card company you will find that there may be credit card life insurance that will pay off any balance.

Creditors have six months after the estate is opened to file claims against the estate. Notice is usually provided to them first with the publication of the notice of probate, but also by sending notice to all creditors. Thereafter, the creditors can submit there claims. This is accomplished by the creditor send a certified claim letter both to the fiduciary and Probate Court.

The fiduciary will then settle on the claim or "disallow" the within thirty days if it has no merit. The creditor may then appeal this action in the appropriate State Court.

The fiduciary will assess the valid claims along with the estate's administrative expenses that need to be paid (i.e. filing fees, attorney and fiduciary fees and other associated probate fees) first in consideration of the satisfy all claims, then the debts are prioritized in accordance with Rhode Island law.

Once the aforementioned claims are satisfied, then the estate can make free and clear disbursements of the net proceeds to the determined beneficiaries.

Regardless, with credit cards especially, debts should be paid off to avoid the continuing high interest rates. Procrastination on this point could be interpreted as a waste of estate property.

If there are any monies that can be recovered from individuals who executed promissory notes in the decedent's favor or outstanding medical and dental expenses that have not been submitted to the descent's health insurer, this should be promptly done. If necessary, remember the fiduciary stands in the shoes of the decedent and may pursue claims to these assets in any appropriate Court.

Insurance claims should be filed by the estate forthwith. This will provide assets for the beneficiaries prior to the completion of Probate. Even though this asset passes outside probate in most cases, the estate is still responsible for taxes on same.

When can the estate be closed?

After all of the aforementioned is completed, it will be time to close the Estate.

Pertinent Statutes

TITLE 33

Probate practice and procedure

CHAPTER 33-1

Rules of Descent

§ 33-1-1Real estate descending by intestacy to children or descendants, parents, or brothers and sisters. - Whenever any person having title to any real estate of inheritance shall die intestate as to such estate, it shall descend and pass in equal portions to his or her kindred, in the following course:

  1. First to his children or their descendants, if there are any.
  2. Second if there be no children nor their descendants, then to the parents in equal shares, or to the surviving parent of such intestate.
  3. Third if there is no parent, then to the brothers and sisters of the intestate, and their descendants.

§ 33-1-2Descent of real estate to paternal or maternal kindred. -If there is no parent, nor brother, nor sister, nor their descendants, the inheritance shall go in equal moieties to the paternal and maternal kindred, each in the following course:

  1. First to the grandparents, in equal shares, if any there be.
  2. Second if there be no grandparent, then to the uncles and aunts, or their descendants by representation, or such of them as there be.
  3. Third if there be no grandparent, nor uncle, nor aunt, nor their descendants, then to the great grandparents in equal shares, if any there be.
  4. Fourth if there be no great grandparent, then to the great uncles and great aunts or their descendants by representation, or such of them as there be; and so on, in other cases, without end, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their descendants or such of them as there be.

SECTION 33-5-9

§ 33-5-9Revocation of will by marriage. - The marriage of a person shall act as a revocation of a will made by him or her previous to the marriage, unless it appears from the will that it was made in contemplation thereof; but if the will exercises a power of appointment and the real and personal property thereby appointed would not, in default of the appointment, pass to the persons who would have been entitled to it had it been the property and estate of the testator or testatrix making the appointment and had he or she died intestate, so much of the will as makes the appointment shall not be revoked by the marriage.

SECTION 33-5-9.1

§ 33-5-9.1Revocation of provision in will for divorced spouse. - The entry of a final judgment in the divorce of a person shall act as a revocation of all provisions for the benefit of the former spouse in a will made by the person prior to the divorce, unless it appears from the will that the will was made in contemplation of the divorce. All other provisions in the will shall take effect as though the former spouse had predeceased the person.

CHAPTER 33-7

Custody and Probate of Wills

§ 33-7-10Proof of wills when subscribing witnesses unavailable. - Whenever it shall appear to a probate court, before which a purported will has been presented for probate, and whenever it shall appear to the superior court, before which a petition for probate of a will is pending on appeal, that a will cannot be proven as otherwise provided by law because one or more of the subscribing witnesses to the will, at the time the will is offered for probate, are serving in or present with the armed forces of the United States, or serving as merchant sailors, or are dead, or mentally or physically incapable of testifying, or otherwise are unavailable in the course of their service, the court may admit the will to probate upon the testimony in person or by deposition of at least two (2) credible disinterested witnesses that the signature to the will is in the handwriting of the person whose will it purports to be, or upon other sufficient proof of the handwriting. The foregoing provision shall not preclude the court, in its discretion, from requiring in addition, the testimony in person, or by deposition, of any available subscribing witness, or proof of such other important facts and circumstances as the court may deem necessary to admit the will to probate.

CHAPTER 33-7

Custody and Probate of Wills

§ 33-7-5Duty of person in possession of will to deliver into court. -Every person, other than a probate clerk, who has custody of a will shall, within thirty (30) days after notice of the death of the testator, deliver the will into the probate court which has jurisdiction of the probate thereof, or to the executors named in the will, who shall themselves deliver it into court within thirty (30) days after they receive the will; and if any executor or other person neglects, without reasonable cause, to deliver a will, after being duly cited for that purpose by the court, he or she may be adjudged to be in contempt and may be committed therefor to the adult correctional institutions and shall remain there until he or she delivers the will to the court; and he or she shall be further liable, to any party aggrieved, for the damage sustained by reason of neglect.

Provided further, that a fiduciary nominated in a will may deliver such will to the probate court with an affidavit containing the following information, representations, and documentation:

  1. The date of death of the decedent accompanied by a certified copy of the decedent's death certificate;
  2. A representative that the funeral bill of the decedent has been paid, accompanied by a receipt therefor;
  3. The names and addresses of the heirs-at-law of the decedent at the decedent's date of death; and
  4. A representation that the affiant has received no notice of the issuance of letters testamentary or letters of administration regarding the estate of the decedent, and that there are no assets of the decedent subject to probate. Upon receipt of such will and affidavit the probate clerk, upon being paid a fee of thirty dollars ($30.00), shall receive and keep the will and accompanying affidavit and shall give a receipt of the deposit thereof.

§ 33-7-8Proof of will of nonresident. - The will, duly executed, of any person who resides outside the state at the time of his or her death, may be proved before the probate court of any town where any property is situated upon which the will may operate.

CHAPTER 33-8 Appointment and Qualification of Executors and Administrators

§ 33-8-1Grant of letters to executor named in will. - Upon the probate of a will the probate court shall issue letters testamentary thereon to the executor named therein, if he or she is legally competent, and if he or she gives bond as by law required.

CHAPTER 33-8

Appointment and Qualification of Executors and Administrators

§ 33-8-7Residence of administrator. - No person not an inhabitant of this state shall be appointed administrator by reason of any right to the trust, unless other circumstances, in the opinion of the court, render the appointment proper.

§ 33-8-8Administration of intestate estate. - Administration of the estate of a person dying intestate shall be granted as follows:

  1. To the widow or surviving husband or one or more of the next of kin, or to the widow or surviving husband jointly with one or more of the next of kin, they being suitable persons and competent.
  2. If the widow or surviving husband and the next of kin shall neglect to apply for letters of administration within thirty (30) days after the decease of a person intestate, or shall be unsuitable for the discharge of the trust, or renounce the administration, the probate court may, on petition therefor of some party in interest, grant administration to any suitable person.

CHAPTER 33-9

Collection and Management of Decedents' Estates

§ 33-9-1Return of inventory of estate. - Every administrator and every executor, shall, within ninety (90) days after his or her appointment or such longer period as may be allowed by the probate court, return to the probate court, under oath, a true inventory of all the personal property, both tangible and intangible, and of all claims, rights, causes of actions and other assets, other than real property, of the deceased, with an appraisement thereof as of the date of the decedent's death.

§ 33-9-2Wearing apparel. - The wearing apparel of a deceased person, not including jewels and watches, shall not be included in the inventory nor be assets for the payment of debts, and if not bequeathed shall be distributed according to law.

§ 33-9-4Appraisal of property.

  1. (a) The property comprised in the inventory shall be appraised by the executor or administrator.
  2. (b) Upon the petition of any party in interest, the court may appoint one or more appraisers to value assets of the estate specified in the petition. The appraisers shall be sworn to the faithful discharge of their trust.

SECTION 33-9-7

§ 33-9-7Continuation of decedent's business. - Executors and administrators may be authorized by the probate court before which the estate is in settlement to work up and complete any stock and materials in an unfinished state, or to continue any business of the decedent so far as may be expedient for the prudent winding up of the business, if the court shall find that it will be for the interest of the estate.

CHAPTER 33-11

Claims Against Decedents' Estates

§ 33-11-1Computation of time. - Periods of time in this chapter, where no other provision is made, shall be reckoned from the date of the first publication by the probate clerk of the notice of the qualification of the first executor or administrator.

§ 33-11-14Disallowance of claim. - Any claim filed within six (6) months from the first publication may be disallowed within six (6) months and thirty (30) days from the first publication by the executor or administrator, or by any person interested, by filing in the office of the clerk of the probate court a statement disallowing the claim, and giving notice in writing, either personally or by registered or certified mail, to the claimant, whose claim is disallowed; and any claim filed after six (6) months from the first publication may be disallowed within thirty (30) days after notice of filing.

§ 33-11-16Probate court to hear disallowed claims against solvent estate. -If the estate is solvent, the executor, administrator, or creditor filing the claim may, within ten (10) days after disallowance of a claim, file a request that any claim disallowed be proved before the probate court. All claims disallowed shall be heard and decided by the probate court, and no suit shall be brought upon any claim, until the hearing is held by the court.

§ 33-11-4Manner of filing claims - Copy to executor or administrator. - All persons having claims, including pending suits, preferred claims, and claims of the executor or administrator, against the estate of a deceased person shall file statements of their claims in the office of the clerk of the probate court in such form which adequately sets forth the nature and approximate amount (if known) of the claim, and the name and address of the claimant and of his or her attorney, if any. Each statement of claims, other than that filed by an executor or administrator, shall contain an affidavit that a copy of the statement was transmitted by hand delivery, or forwarded to the executor or administrator, or his or her attorney of record by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.

§ 33-11-5Time allowed for filing claims - Petition to allow late filing - Appeal. - Claims shall be filed within six (6) months from the first publication. Claims not filed within six (6) months from the publication shall be barred; provided, that a creditor who, by reason of accident, mistake or any other cause, has failed to file his or her claim, may, at any time, before the distribution of the estate, petition the probate court for leave to file his or her claim, and the probate court, after notice to the executor or administrator of the estate and a hearing on the petition, may in its discretion, grant leave to file the claim upon the terms, if any, as the court shall prescribe, which claim, if allowed, shall be paid out of the assets remaining in the hands of the executor or administrator at the time of the receipt by him or her of notice of the pendency of a petition, and there shall be no appeal from an order or decree granting leave to file the claim. From an order or decree denying leave to file the claim an appeal may only be taken to the superior court where it shall be heard de novo, and without a jury, and neither the rulings of the superior court, nor its order or decree shall .

§ 33-11-5.1Duty to notify known or reasonably ascertainable creditors.

  1. If the identity of a creditor of an estate is known or reasonably ascertainable by an executor or administrator, such executor or administrator shall, within a reasonable period of time after qualification, take such steps as are necessary to ensure that such creditor receives or has received actual notice of the commencement of the estate.

    The sending of a notice in the form contained in subsection (b) by such fiduciary to such creditor at his/her or its last known address, by first class mail, postage prepaid, shall be deemed to be a means, but not the exclusive means, of satisfying the requirements of this section.
  2. An executor or administrator shall be conclusively presumed to have complied with this section by sending a written notice in substantially the following form:

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND PROBATE COURT OF COUNTY OF THE ESTATE OF (NAME OR ESTATE) (NO.) NOTICE OF COMMENCEMENT OF PROBATE

To: (Name of Creditor)

(last known address of creditor)

Notice is hereby given by (name of fiduciary) that a probate estate has been commenced for (name of decedent) in the Probate Court of the (name of municipality, address of court) docket no, said (name of fiduciary) having been qualified on (date of qualification).

Name and address of Estate Representative or Attorney

Date

§ 33-11-50Limitation of actions by creditors of decedent. - No executor or administrator shall be held to answer to the suit of a creditor of the deceased, except to a suit on his or her bond, or as is otherwise provided, unless the suit is commenced within two (2) years from the date of the first publication and before any order of distribution has been made on the estate of the intestate.

§ 33-11-7Affidavit to support claim. - A claimant shall, if requested by the executor or administrator, file in the office of the clerk of the probate court an affidavit in support of this claim, stating to the best of his or her knowledge and belief that he or she has given credit to the estate for all payments and offsets to which it is entitled, and that the balance claimed is justly due, and what security, if any, he or she holds for his or her claim, and, if the claim is not upon a negotiable instrument, that no negotiable instrument has been given.

CHAPTER 33-12

Payment of Decedents' Debts and Charges

§ 33-12-1Estate chargeable with debts. - The estate, real and personal, of every deceased person shall be chargeable with the expenses of administration, including allowances to widow and family, the funeral charges of the deceased, including the cost of a place of burial, if necessary, and the payment of his or her debts; and the same shall be paid by the executor or administrator out of the estate, so far as the same shall be sufficient therefor.

§ 33-12-2Order of application of property. - The personal estate shall be first chargeable for expenses, charges, and debts, and the real estate shall be chargeable only so far as the personal estate is insufficient for that purpose, except as otherwise provided by law or will.

§ 33-12-3Expenses included in expenses of administration. - The expenses of the division and assignment of real estate, and of the appointment of guardians of minors and others incapacitated to take care of their interests, whether they be heirs or legatees, except there be an appeal from the order making or appointing the same, shall be included in the expenses of administration.

§ 33-12-5Real estate not devised applied first. - Unless a different intention appear by the will, real estate not devised shall be subjected to the payment of debts and legacies, before real estate devised.

CHAPTER 33-14

Accounts of Executors and Administrators

§ 33-14-1Times when accounts required. - Every executor and administrator, except as provided in § 33-17-3, shall make out and return to the probate court, upon completion of the period of administration, and at such other times as shall be required by the court, pursuant to § 33-14-4, an account relative to the estate in his or her hands, with a statement of the liquidated balance that may be due to or from him or her. Provided, however, that no interim accounting shall be required unless requested by an interested party, and any interim accounting may be excused by the probate court for good cause shown; and further provided, however, that every executor and administrator who is the sole beneficiary of the estate or who files a release from each beneficiary shall be permitted to file, in lieu of a final account, an affidavit of completed administration together with evidence that all Rhode Island estate and inheritance taxes for the estate have been satisfied, that the funeral bill has been paid, and that all claims filed against the estate have been satisfied.

CHAPTER 33-17

Bonds of Executors, Administrators, and Guardians

§ 33-17-1Conditions of bond. - Every executor, administrator, and guardian, before entering upon the execution of his or her trust, shall give bond to the probate court in any sum as it shall require, with sufficient surety or sureties, and with condition, except as provided in §§ 33-17-3 and 33-17-4, substantially as follows:

  1. In the case of an executor or administrator with the will annexed:
    1. To make and return to the probate court, as by law required, a true inventory of all the testator's personal property which, at the time of making the inventory, shall have come to his or her possession or knowledge.
    2. To administer according to law and the will of the testator, all the personal property of the testator which may come to his or her possession or into the possession of any person for him or her, and all rents and proceeds of real estate which may be received by him or her.
    3. To render upon oath true accounts of his or her administration, as by law required.
  2. In the case of an administrator:
    1. (i) To make and return to the probate court, as by law required, a true inventory of all the intestate's personal property which, at the time of making the inventory, shall have come to his or her possession or knowledge.
    2. (ii) To administer according to law all the personal property of the deceased and rents which may come into his or her possession or into the possession of any person for him or her.
    3. (iii) To render upon oath true accounts of his or her administration, as by law required.
    4. (iv) To deliver his or her letters of administration into the court if a will of the deceased is thereafter proved and allowed, and to settle his or her account in the probate court and to pay over and deliver all the assets remaining in his or her hands or due from him or her on settlement to the executor of the will.
  3. In the case of a guardian of an estate:
    1. (i) To make and return to the probate court, as by law required, a true inventory of all the real and personal property of the ward which, at the time of making inventory, shall have come to his or her possession or knowledge.
    2. (ii) To manage and dispose of all property according to law and for the best interests of the ward, and faithfully to perform his or her trust.
    3. (iii) To render upon oath, as by law required, a true account of the property of his or her ward and of his or her management and disposition thereof.
    4. (iv) At the expiration of his or her trust to settle his or her account in the probate court, or with the ward or his or her legal representative, and to pay over and deliver all the property remaining in his or her hands or due from him or her on settlement to the person entitled to the property.

CHAPTER 33-22

Practice in Probate Courts

§ 33-22-21Fees enumerated - Hearing date to be noted on receipt.

  1. The fees in probate courts shall be as follows: for every petition for the appointment of a receiver, custodian, administrator, guardian, or conservator, or for the probate of and recording of a will, one percent (1.0%) of the personal property of the decedent or ward over which the court has jurisdiction, but in no event shall the fee be less than thirty dollars ($30.00) nor more than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500); for every petition for the change of name, thirty dollars ($30.00); for every petition for adoption, thirty dollars ($30.00); for every petition of a foreign administrator, executor, or guardian to transfer or sell real or personal estate, one percent (1.0%) of the personal property of the decedent, or ward located in Rhode Island, but in no event shall the fee be less than thirty dollars ($30.00) nor more than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500) which fees shall be in lieu of all subsequent filing and recording fees in the same proceedings, except as hereinafter provided, and shall be paid before the petition is filed, and shall be based upon estimates submitted by the petitioner or someone in his or her behalf, and shall be subject to revision whenever it appears that the estimates were incorrect, and upon revision a further payment or rebate shall be made promptly. In the event that the appointment of a receiver or custodian, pending the appointment of an administrator, guardian, or conservator, or the probate of or recording of a will, is necessary, the fee so paid for the petition shall be applied on the amount to be paid upon the filing of a petition for the appointment of the administrator, guardian, or conservator, or for the probate of or recording of the will. The court at any time may cite in and examine any receiver, custodian, executor, administrator, guardian, or conservator for the purpose of determining the full fee due and payable. Also, the following fees shall be charged:
    1. For every petition to file a claim out of time, thirty dollars ($30.00);
    2. For every petition for the removal of an executor, administrator, guardian, conservator, or other fiduciary, thirty dollars ($30.00);
    3. For every petition for appointment of a successor guardian under the uniform gifts to minors act, thirty dollars ($30.00);
    4. For every petition to file a will with no probate, thirty dollars ($30.00);
    5. An affidavit of complete administration, thirty dollars ($30.00);
    6. For every certificate of appointment, five dollars ($5.00);
    7. For every petition to remove or fill a vacancy of a trustee of any trust established under a will, or the termination of such trust, thirty dollars ($30.00); and
    8. For every petition for tax minimization or estate planning, thirty dollars ($30.00).
  2. Upon payment of any fee enumerated in this section, the clerk of the court shall issue a written receipt to the person making payment. In the event that the matter filed with the court calls for a hearing, the clerk of the court shall note the hearing date and time on the receipt whenever possible; otherwise as soon as is practicable after the filing of the matter, the clerk of the court shall provide written notice of the hearing date and time directly to the person filing the matter.
  3. The clerk of the court shall charge one dollar and fifty cents ($1.50) per page and three dollars ($3.00) to certify any probate documents on file with the probate court.

§ 33-22-3Notice given by petitioner on filing of petition and hearing. - In addition to the notice prescribed by § 33-7-9, and to notice by publication in the manner as prescribed by § 33-22-11, the petitioner or his or her attorney shall, at least ten (10) days before the date set for hearing on the petition, send or cause to be sent by mail, postage prepaid, addressed to each person whose name and post office address is by § 33-22-2(3) required to be set forth in the petition, as the names and addresses are set forth therein or as then known to the petitioner, notice of the filing, the nature of the petition, and of the time and place set for hearing on the petition, or in lieu thereof a copy of the newspaper notice published pursuant to the provisions of § 33-22-11; provided, however, that in the case of any person entitled to notice hereunder whose post office address is outside the continental limits of the United States this notice shall be sent at least three (3) weeks before the date set for the hearing; and provided further that the petitioner or his or her attorney shall not be required to send this notice to any person sui juris who shall at, or prior to, the hearing waive notice of its pendency in writing either on the petition or by instrument separately filed. The petitioner or his or her attorney shall at or prior to the hearing file or cause to be filed an affidavit that the notice was given, setting forth the names and post office addresses of the persons to whom the notice was sent and the date of mailing of the notice, together with a copy of the notice.

CHAPTER 33-24

Small Estates

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

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 an attested copy of the statement duly filed under this section, but only after such statement 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 attested copy 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 certificate should issue.

Upon the presentation of a copy of such a statement duly attested 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.

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.

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.

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.

SECTION 33-24-2

§ 33-24-2Administration of small estates where executor named in will - Voluntary executors. - 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.

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.

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 an attested copy of the statement duly filed under this section, but only after such statement 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 attested copy 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 certificate should issue.

Upon the presentation of a copy of such a statement duly attested 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.

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.

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.

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.

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