When a person dies, their property needs to be distributed to their heirs.  Historically, filing a full probate, a lengthy 8-10 month court proceeding, was the only option. Yes, unfortunately in California probate is a lengthy and expensive procedure. Fortunately, however, California offers several lower-cost alternatives to probate to settle small estates. Read on to learn more about how to settle a small estate in California.

What our Clients Say...
I used A People’s Choice for the preparation and filing of court documents in connection with probate for my sister’s estate.  I began the probate process in pro per without knowing of the services of A People’s Choice.  After many trips to the LA Court house and attempting to interpret the requirements for each filing, I heard of A People’s Choice.  Fantastic find!  I hired this firm after discovering the difficultly in processing the probate by myself.  Very knowledgeable with good technology to keep me informed along the process of their filing of numerous documents.  Their fees were significantly less than what I would have had to pay for an attorney yet their services were excellent and I could not see where an attorney would have been any better (or as good).I highly recommend this service.
Ron C.
“I can’t say enough about the level of service and professionalism I received working with A People’s Choice. Emails were always responded to quickly and thoughtfully. They really care about the process and helping you get the best result with no up-selling. Of course, they can’t provide legal advice, but I was referred to an attorney when I needed some questions answered who was very reasonable and easy to get a hold of as well. The process played out according to plan and I ended up saving a lot of money by going with A People’s Choice over an attorney.”
M. Rice
“I am writing to give A People’s Choice my utmost recommendation. I live in New England and found them on the web. After speaking with a staff member on the phone I had the confidence to give them my business. A People’s Choice handled my probate case with great professionalism and knowledge. My case turned out to be more complicated than originally believed and the staff walked me through each step. They always responded promptly to my email questions. In the end, their service was exactly what I hoped for; they saved me thousands of dollars and allowed me to do it from across the country. They were truly a pleasure to work with.”
K. Levenson
“A People Choice provided excellent support with the appropriate legal documents and filing process in a spousal property petition after my husband passed. Lawyers wanted to charge me a fortune. However, once I spoke with someone at A People’s Choice, they took on my case and guided me through every step. A People’s Choice has years of experience which gave me a sense of trust and confidence. I always got immediate feedback from every email request. If you have a need for probate help, I would highly recommend A People’s Choice.”
Sylvia A
“I had a great experience with my probate using A People’s Choice! The people that assisted me were so helpful.  I could not have done this probate by myself.  I was able to save over 10,000 in lawyer fees!  All my emails were always returned so quickly, and I am a very satisfied customer.  I would highly recommend A People’s Choice to all my friends and family!”
Joi C
“APC did a great job with my father’s probate case. I highly recommend them. Professional staff!!! Probably saved me about $10k.”
Eric N
“When my mother in-law passed away last year, we didn’t know what to do. We contacted A People’s Choice and from day one they were very helpful. They almost held our hand every step of the way, and if I had a question any time of the day or night someone got back to me within a few hours. I highly recommend A People’s Choice if you don’t know what to do and don’t want to pay the high price of a lawyer especially if you don’t have much money.”
Mikki C
“A People’s Choice helped us throughout our entire year-long probate making the process very easy and manageable while at the same time saving us thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees. Not only were they extremely friendly and fast to respond to our questions but they made the process simple enough that we hardly ever had to contact the courthouse directly and we even had a hearing done without an appearance. Would highly recommend A People’s Choice to anyone!”
A. Vuckovich
“A People’s Choice is a very responsible and effective company, staff there is very nice and replied to all my questions by email quickly. With their help, I accomplished the probate in 8 months successfully and saved at least $10,000.00 in attorney fees, so I strongly recommend everybody to contract with A People’s Choice and let them to help you with your legal documents. You will be very satisfied with their work as I did!!!!”
C. Chiu
“A People’s Choice walked me through the entire probate process. They are so professional and helpful. Thank you to the staff for your guidance and patience to talk me through such difficult time. You made the process very smooth for me. I am so glad that I found you.” 
Sandie K.
“The staff at A People’s Choice made a scary Probate pretty much stress free. I would send an email with a question I had thought of over the weekend with the expectation that I would get an answer on Monday. Lo and behold, I often got an answer within minutes! We are very pleased and will be referring our friends/family to A People’s Choice!”
L. Garrett
“Thanks to A People’s Choice I was able to get through a probate matter very smoothly. I had not one issue with the Courts. They guided me through the whole probate until the very end. I live up north but that didn’t matter, A People’s Choice did an excellent job keeping me informed with everything that I needed to do. I saved THOUSANDS of dollars by going with A People’s Choice. You can’t go wrong, no matter what your needs are. I saved a lot of money by not having to pay out a percentage to any attorney. I want to thank the staff at A People’s Choice for the great help they give to everyone in their times of need. Like I was! Thank You.”
R. Leonard
“When my father passed away without a will, we needed help handling the transfer of his assets. Since there weren’t significant assets, I didn’t want to spend too much on the legal paperwork. A People’s Choice offered just the right service we needed. In particular, the staff was very responsive to our document filing needs, helping to turn around corrections almost immediately. They helped to ease a tough situation.”
Michael C.
“I used A People’s Choice for help with a probate matter. My grandfather died Christmas of 2016. He had a living trust, but no one was able to find it. We went to A People’s Choice and we were able to do a probate affidavit to get what was left of my grandfather’s estate. Took two days for the documents to be prepared and the bank accepted them without any questions. Sandy was the one who assisted us, and we really appreciate the help that was provided. A+ service.”
David R.
“A People’s Choice worked on my probate case for over 1 year. Their knowledge, dedication and commitment to clients is exceptional. They prepared all the required legal documents, and all the court filings. They used the e-filing system, which initially I was hesitant about, but I’m so glad they did. It really expedited the process. They always answered my emails in a very timely manner and was always professional. The probate process is long and sometimes seems overwhelming. It’s also very expensive, A People’s Choice saved me thousands of dollars over going to an Attorney. I would highly recommend A People’s Choice for your probate needs, it’s cost effective, and they handle the entire process from beginning to end. They do a great job!”
“A People’s Choice was professional and courteous throughout a long probate process. Probate itself is a frustrating and expensive process; however, everyone I came in contact with at A People’s Choice was exceptionally helpful, patient, and professional. For those entering into the probate process I must warn you that it is difficult to understand but the staff at A People’s Choice makes it as tolerable you could wish for.  The people who work there were kind, efficient, and understanding.  As long as you email them your questions, they will get back to you and they will not make you feel like you are ignorant if you are unclear about any part of the process.”
Marcel B
“I needed help understanding and filling out legal documents, but I didn’t have enough money to pay for an attorney. I searched the internet for a short period of time looking for help and when I found A People’s Choice, I was relieved to know that I would get the exact service that I needed at an affordable price. The staff was very professional and helpful with my legal documents. They worked around my schedule and responded to my emails on a timely manner. They took care of all the paperwork and filing and kept me posted. I would highly recommend A People’s Choice for your legal documents as you will get outstanding service at an affordable price. “
Sharon B.

Get help Settling Your Small Estate!

  • or call 1-800-747-2780

What is a Small Valued Estate?

A small valued estate is typically an estate where the total value of assets is less than $150,000.  Keep in mind, to use this process the estate must include both personal and real property.  Refer to this other article on how to settle a small valued estate under $150,000 if your estate does not include real property.

How to Determine Value of Estate

It is important to remember to exclude certain assets when determining the value of an estate.  These assets include joint tenancy, assets passing to a surviving spouse, accounts with multiple joint tenancy owners, life estates, property with Transfer on Death deeds, life insurance benefits paid directly to the beneficiaries, vehicles, outstanding salary valued at $5,000 or less, and assets held in trust.

Simplified Probate Procedures

One of several simplified probate procedures in California is the affidavit procedure under California Probate Code §13150.  This process allows for the transfer of all real estate and personal property in the estate to the heirs so long as the total value of all assets in the estate is no more than $150,000.  You can use a small estate petition to transfer estates that have real property, or for estates with both real and personal property.  All heirs with the legal right to inherit the property must join together to file the small estate Petition.

How to Settle a Small Estate with Real Property Valued Under $150,000

To settle a small Estate with real property valued under $150,000, at least 40 days must have passed from the death of the decedent.  If a probate proceeding is already on file for the estate of the decedent, then this procedure requires written permission from the estate administrator.

To start the small estate process, you must file a Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property (form DE-130) with the court.  This petition requires an Inventory and Appraisal (DE-160) of the decedent’s property.  A probate referee must sign this inventory and appraisal.  The petition must also include a certified copy of the death certificate and a copy of the will (if there is one).

If the estate has a value under $50,000 and includes real property, it is possible to settle the estate even faster. The process is similar to the process described above for estates under $150,000, however, there is no required court hearing.

The main advantage of using this procedure to settle a small estate, as opposed to filing full probate, is that there is only one court hearing, making the process much cheaper and faster.  However, when real property is transferred using this method, the heirs/petitioners become personally liable for all unsecured debts of the decedent.

Disadvantages of Using Small Estate Procedures

There are times when using a simplified small estate probate procedure is not ideal or the best option. For example, if there is likely to be a dispute among the heirs over how much each person receives, then it is better to settle an estate through full probate and not a simplified process.  If the decedent had unknown creditors or a large amount of outstanding debt, a formal probate procedure is the better choice. Why may you ask?


First and foremost, when a decedent’s property is transferred using this method, the heirs become personally liable for all unsecured debts of the decedent. Personal liability by the heirs is the biggest drawback to filing a small estate probate. In all small estate probate cases, the petitioners/heirs become personally liable for the decedent’s debts which may exceed the value of the estate.

Low-Cost Probate Help to Settle a Small Estate

No matter what probate process you need, probate in California does not need to be expensive! A People’s Choice has over 39 years of extensive experience in helping people get through the California probate process. Now that you know how to settle a small estate with real property valued under $150,000 contact A People’s Choice. You don’t need to hire an attorney, and you don’t need to complete the paperwork on your own. Not only will our office prepare all the required documents, but we will also manage the case until it is fully complete and the court approves the distribution of assets to the heirs.

Call today at 800-747-2780. Help is just a phone call away!

Get help with your Legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


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