Small Estate Probates

For estates of small size, California has a few ways of transferring property without a formal court-managed probate.

Small Estate Affidavit
In some cases, the heirs of an estate may use a Small Estate Affidavit to claim property. There are specific requirements that must be met to use the Small Estate Affidavit procedures. The requirements are:

  • The total value of the estate is less than $150,000.
  • No real property is being transferred by the affidavit.
  • At least 40 days has passed since the death.
  • No probate has started or the personal representative of the estate has allowed the affidavit to be used.
  • The person claiming the property has a superior right to the property over everyone else.
  • The affidavit must be signed under penalty of perjury.

Once the Small Estate Affidavit has been prepared, a copy of the affidavit and death certificate is given to every person and organization holding property of the deceased.

Petition to Determine Succession to Real and Personal Property
If the deceased’s estate includes real property, the family can file a petition with the court for an order to transfer the real property along with the personal property. The requirements to file the petition are:

  • The value of the real property does not exceed $50,000 or the combination of personal and real property does not exceed $150,000.
  • At least 40 days has passed since the death.
  • No probate has started.
  • An inventory of estate assets is provided.
  • A petition is filed with the court in the county where the deceased resided.

Once the petition has been completed and filed, the court will provide a court date, which can be as long as 6 months. Notice must be provided to all the heirs of the estate, including all persons named in the Will and intestate heirs.

At the hearing, the court will examine any evidence provided to support your petition along with any objections made by others. If the judge agrees with your petition, then an order will be issued transferring the property. The order can be given to anyone holding property of the deceased or recorded with the county recorder to change title of real property.

In both cases, specific procedures must be followed. Consulting an attorney familiar with these processes can help settle an estate quickly and affordably.