When someone passes away their estate will usually have to go through probate. Probate is a legal process where the courts officially handle the assets in a legal manner. Probate can be costly with legal fees and/or a % of the estate gross being charged. However if an estate is small enough then probate can be avoided. The threshold on how small an estate has to be to avoid probate varies state to state based on each states law.
The Nolo site has links to each state in their article Small Estate Probate Shortcuts: Why Even Large Estates May Qualify I went to each individual state page and got the numbers there. Some of the numbers below are for a 'simple affidavit' and some are for the 'small estate' form of probate. These are two different ways of either avoiding probate or doing a shortened probate. They are different but for my purposes here good enough to show the maximum estate value below which you can avoid probate. A list of state laws is at the Findlaw page State Laws: Estates & Probate
To be clear, this is not even close to legal advice. If you're going through probate you ought to review your states current laws. This list is bound to get out of date fast since 50 states tend to change laws once in a while so a couple years form now I bet 1-2 states will have changed it.
If you want the detail for your state then I encourage you to check the Nolo site : Small Estate Probate Shortcuts: Why Even Large Estates May Qualify
Here is the list by state for assets below which you may be able to avoid probate :
* Theres some details to add per states: Nebraska allows $30k of real property / $50k of personal property, Nevada allows up to $200k if theres no debts, New Mexico allows up to $500k for spouses only, Oregons total is $75k personal and $200k real. Georgia seems to avoid probate if theres no debts, Nolo didn't have a page for Louisiana and New Hampshire seems to avoid probate entirely for spouses and children.
Some states may allow larger amounts than the figures given above based on circumstances. The laws can get more convoluted based on various situations.