In California, as in most other states in the United States, there are special procedures for passing property from a deceased’s estate to beneficiaries if the estate qualifies as a small estate. Small estate probate proceedings can save time and effort by simplifying the necessary steps one must take settle a deceased’s estate. A California small estate probate affidavit can transfer personal property in an estate with real and personal property worth less than $166,250 (effective 1/1/2020) without the necessity of formal probate proceedings, and thereby avoid court altogether.

There are two different California small estate probate affidavit processes that can be used depending upon whether the decedent owned real and personal property or only personal property. The value of the property determines which process you can use.

To transfer personal property by non-court Affidavit, at least 40 days must have elapsed since the death of the decedent. For beneficiaries to receive property by this streamlined procedure, the person entitled to the property must present an affidavit to the person, representative corporation or institution having custody or control of the property, or acting as a registrar or transfer agent of the property, requesting that the property be delivered or transferred to them. If there are several assets to be transferred, one affidavit can list all assets, or you can 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.
At least six months must have elapsed since the death of the decedent before a party can attempt to transfer real and personal property using this simplified process. If the value of the estate’s real property is under $55,425 (effective 1/1/2020) , 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 all unsecured debts of the decedent must be paid before filing the affidavit. 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 add up the value of the decedent’s personal and real property. The decedent’s real property refers to land owned by the decedent’s. Some property is not included in the calculations, such as:

  • 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, if the benefits are paid to the estate, they 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 amount;
  • Proof of the identity of the person seeking the property transfer;
  • Completion of the required court form
  • 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 Using a California Small Estate Probate Affidavit Process

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 for low-cost legal document help. Although we cannot give legal advice, A People’s Choice can help you in preparing the 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. A People’s Choice has been providing self-help legal document services for over 40+ years and has established an excellent reputation in the community.  The process can be started through our convenient online system, over the phone or in person.