In California, as in most other states, passing property from a deceased’s small estate to beneficiaries requires special procedures.

Small estate probate proceedings can save time and effort by simplifying the steps necessary for settlement. More specifically, a California small estate probate affidavit can transfer personal property in an estate with real and personal property worth less than $166,250 without formal probate proceedings, thereby avoiding court altogether.

There are two different California small estate probate affidavit processes. The appropriate process depends upon whether the decedent owned real and personal property or only personal property.

Personal property may be transferred with a non-court affidavit at least 40 days following death of the decedent. To use this streamlined procedure, beneficiaries must present an affidavit to the person or institution with control of the property.

If there are multiple assets, you can list them all on one affidavit or list each asset on a separate affidavit. When using this affidavit procedure to collect or transfer personal property, no administration proceedings may be pending or have been conducted for the decedent’s estate. An affidavit of domicile may also be required to transfer stocks, bonds, and mutual fund accounts.

A party can attempt to transfer real and personal property using this simplified process if at least six months have elapsed since the death of the decedent. If the value of the estate’s real property is under $55,425, you can transfer title to the property by filing an Affidavit for Real Property of Small Value.

You must file the affidavit with the Superior Court of the county where the property is located. The Court Clerk will certify the affidavit, and then you can record the certified copy with the county recorder.

In order to use this process, there must be no pending probate proceedings and no other California probate proceedings filed. Before filing the affidavit, all funeral expenses, last illness expenses, and unsecured debts of the decedent must be paid. Additionally, all beneficiaries or heirs to the estate must sign the affidavit.

The Affidavit re: Real Property of Small Value must specify the value of the decedent’s estate. To calculate how much the estate is worth, the beneficiary or heir must combine the value of the decedent’s personal and real property.

The decedent’s real property refers to land owned by the decedent. However, some property is not included in the calculations, including:

  • Any property the decedent held together with another person in joint tenancy;
  • Property where the deceased only had a life interest that was terminated by death;
  • Real estate located outside California;
  • Property that can pass to the deceased’s spouse by law; and
  • Several other types of property, including certain vehicles and motorhomes.

Life insurance benefits paid directly to beneficiaries and heirs are also not included in the calculations. However benefits paid to the estate can count toward the $166,250.

One must also attach the following documents to an affidavit before presenting it to a bank or other institution holding the property:

  • A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate;
  • Proof that the decedent owned the property used to calculate the $166,250;
  • Proof of the identity of the person seeking the property transfer;
  • Completion of the required court form; and
  • An Inventory and Appraisal form signed by a probate referee specifying all real property owned by the decedent in California.

Use A People’s Choice to Help Settle Your Estate

If you are considering settling an estate by using a California small estate probate affidavit and want to avoid the high cost of attorney’s fees, contact A People’s Choice. Although we cannot give legal advice, A People’s Choice can help you in preparing a California small estate probate affidavit without having to hire a lawyer.

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If you or an heir need more information about California probate and the various California simplified probate procedures that are available, please feel free to call our office. The process can be started through our convenient online system, over the phone, or in person.

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