• Supervised: The most formal and expensive method. The court plays an active role in approving each transaction. In states where it’s optional, supervised administration is used for contested estates, when an interested party requests it, or when the executor’s ability is questioned.
  • Unsupervised or independent: A simpler, cheaper method in which the number of duties and procedures is reduced and the court’s role is diminished or eliminated. It’s used for estates that exceed the asset limit for small-estate administration (see below) but don’t require heavy court supervision. It often requires consent of all beneficiaries, unless the will specifically requests unsupervised administration.
  • Small estate: The simplest and fastest probate, it’s not available in every state and where it is only for small estates, ranging from $1,000 to $100,000, depending on state law. Property is often transferred by affidavit. Small estate administration often lasts only a few weeks.

ABA Guide to Wills and Estates
Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002 American Bar Association