California probate law provides beneficiaries the option to administer their loved one’s estate outside of the formal probate process. More specifically, the California small estate probate process does not require formal probate if the estate’s value is below $166,250. Instead, the decedent’s successor can use a simplified procedure pursuant to California Probate Code Section 13100 to transfer personal property to beneficiaries.

California Small Estate Probate Overview

Excluding the property described in Section 13050, if the gross value of the decedent’s real and personal property in California does not exceed $166,250, and if 40 days have elapsed since the decedent’s death, the successor may, without procuring letters of administration or awaiting probate of the will, do any of the following with respect to one or more particular items of property:

(a) Collect any particular item of property that is money due the decedent

(b) Receive any particular item of property that is tangible personal property of the decedent

(c) Have any particular item of property that is evidence of a debt, obligation, interest, right, security, or chose in action belonging to the decedent transferred, whether or not secured by a lien on real property

California Small Estate Probate Requirements

Depending on the circumstances of the decedent’s small estate, administrators have a couple options for avoiding full probate. Luckily, when utilizing small estate probate procedures for transferring personal and real property, successors do not have to post bond nor publication. Additionally, they can avoid most or all court involvement! For example, successors in interest do not have to wait for the court to issue letters to transfer property. That said, all pending estate debts must still be paid in full.

Property Valued Under $55,425

California Affidavit of Collection of Estate Assets

To use a small estate Affidavit for the Collection of Personal Property, the decedent’s successor must file a formal declaration to legally transfer personal property. More specifically, if the real property value is less than $55,425, successors will have to do the following pursuant to California Probate Code section 13200:

No sooner than six months from the death of a decedent, a person or persons claiming as successor of the decedent to a particular item of property that is real property may file in the superior court in the county in which the decedent was living at the time of death, or if the decedent was not living in this state at the time of death, then in any county in which real property of the decedent is located, an affidavit in the form prescribed by the Judicial Council pursuant to Section 1001.

Probate Affidavit to Transfer Real Property Under $55,425

Next, the successor must complete Form DE-305, or Affidavit for Real Property of Small Value $55,425 or Less, which all interested parties will sign. With this form, the document preparer must include a completed inventory and appraisal document. Additionally, they must attach a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to be filed with the local court clerk. Finally, upon review and approval of the documentation, the successor will receive a certified copy of the form. To complete the transfer, the successor must file this certified copy with the recorder’s office where the real property is located.

Property Valued Under $166,250

Simplified Small Estate Probate To Transfer Real Property Under $166,250

For property valued over $55,425 but under $166,250, successors can file a petition under California Probate Code sections 13150-13158 to obtain a court order granting the transfer of real property.

Exclusive of the property described in Section 13050, if a decedent dies leaving real property in this state and the gross value of the decedent’s real and personal property in this state does not exceed one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($166,250) and 40 days have elapsed since the death of the decedent, the successor or successors of the decedent to an interest in a particular item of property that is real property, without procuring letters of administration or awaiting the probate of the will, may file a petition in the superior court of the county in which the estate of the decedent may be administered requesting a court order determining that the petitioner has succeeded to that real property. A petition under this chapter may include an additional request that the court make an order determining that the petitioner has succeeded to personal property described in the petition.

They also must attach a copy of the decedent’s will to the petition. Additionally, they must complete and attach Form DE-160 (Inventory and Appraisal) and Form DE-161 (Inventory and Appraisal Attachment).

Spousal Property Petition

Finally, the decedent’s surviving spouse can request property transfer without undergoing formal probate. The surviving spouse will need to complete and file the Spousal/Domestic Partner Property Petition.

Non-Probate Assets

Believe it or not, not all assets require probate! More specifically, non-probate assets are assets for which the decedent has already transferred title during their lifetime. They also include assets that have in place some type of survivorship transfer mechanism, such as a pay on death clause. As a result, these types of assets are distributed outside the scope of any terms that may be identified in decedent’s will in probate court.

Additionally, will substitutes are also considered non-probate assets. With these types of assets, the beneficiary only receives the asset upon the donor’s death. However, the title of the asset transfers to the beneficiary during the donor’s life. On the contrary, assets transferred through a will are not title transferred to the beneficiary before death. Thus, by transferring assets through a will substitute process, the beneficiary avoids probate.

Contact A People’s Choice

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about the California probate process for small estates.  We provide low-cost, attorney-free legal document assistance and have over 40 years’ experience in the industry. Call 1-800-747-2780 to speak to a registered legal document assistant today.

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