What is a Year's Allowance?
One of the really helpful estate administration forms that folks may not know about is what’s called a “Year’s Allowance”.
In situations where the couple had most of their assets set up jointly or had named each other as beneficiary, there often is very little that needs to be transferred from the deceased spouse to the surviving spouse. Most often, it’s things like vehicles or small checks made payable to the deceased spouse as reimbursement for insurance premiums.
The Year’s Allowance allows for the assignment of up to $30,000.00 in personal property (vehicles, money, etc.) from the deceased spouse to their surviving spouse, without having to go through probate. To the extent that the value of the property in the name of the deceased spouse is $30,000.00 or less, it can be transferred to the surviving spouse by simply completing one form and having it certified by the Clerk of Court in your county.
An example: Joan dies in 2014, leaving her husband, Bill. Joan had an IRA, of which Bill was the named beneficiary. Joan and Bill had a checking and savings account, of which they were joint owners. Joan had a 2010 Honda Accord (worth $12,000.00) that she owned solely. Their home was owned as tenants by the entirety.
When Joan died, Bill was left wondering what would need to be done from a probate standpoint to transfer Joan’s assets to him. Fortunately for Bill, out of all the things listed above, he only needs to worry about the 2010 Accord. The IRA has Bill listed as beneficiary, meaning he need only file a death claim with the company managing the IRA. The jointly-owned checking and savings accounts can be closed by Bill and reopened in his name alone without any legal authority. Joan’s interest in the home automatically transferred to Bill upon Joan’s death because they owned it as tenants by the entirety. The only thing that Bill can’t transfer without legal authority is the car.
Bill would simply fill out the Year’s Allowance form, sign it and have his signature notarized, and take it, along with Joan’s death certificate, the couple's marriage license and her original will (if she had one) to the Clerk of Court. (There is a fee associated with the Year’s Allowance — currently it is $8.00 — so Bill needs cash as well). Once there, the Clerk will review the documentation, and assuming everything is complete, he or she will sign it, place a raised seal on it, and hand it back to Bill.
From there, Bill would take the certified Year’s Allowance, along with the title to the Accord, to the DMV, present both, and ask that title be transferred to him.
What this means is that Bill has completed the administration of his Wife’s estate with one form.