§ 33-24-1. Voluntary informal administration of small estates.
(a) 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.
(b) 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 a certification of appointment of voluntary administrator, but only after such certification 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 certification 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 certification should issue.
(c) Upon the presentation of a copy of such a certification of appointment 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.
(d) 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.
(e) 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.
(f) 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.
(P.L. 1966, ch. 178, § 1; P.L. 1967, ch. 65, § 1; P.L. 1968, ch. 93, § 1; P.L. 1973, ch. 134, § 1; P.L. 1977, ch. 72, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 68, § 1; P.L. 1983, ch. 204, § 4; P.L. 1998, ch. 448, § 1; P.L. 1999, ch. 484, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 389, § 2; P.L. 2011, ch. 363, § 10.)