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Law Office of Rodney Gould June 4, 2020

Probate is a notoriously lengthy and often expensive process. In the estate planning process, many people look to either eliminate the need for their estate to go through probate or at least minimize the things that will be subject to probate. In California, certain estates deemed to be “small estates” have the option of going through a simplified process for settling an estate. The procedure allows beneficiaries of an estate to skip probate when the assets left in the estate are less than a certain amount.

Small Estates in California

After waiting the requisite 40 days after the date of the decedent’s death to pass, and if there are no pending probate proceedings for the decedent’s estate, you may be able to use a small estate affidavit to get the estate assets to which you are entitled. The use of the small estate affidavit allows you to circumvent the probate process and get more immediate access to the assets you will be inheriting. The affidavit must conform with the requirements laid out in Section 13101 of the California Probate Code. The affidavit must be signed under oath. You can bring the affidavit to whoever is holding the asset, like a bank, and a certified copy of the death certificate to have the asset released and get control of the asset.

To qualify for use of a small estate affidavit, the estate must have assets valued at $150,000 or less. This value is determined by including personal and real property of the decedent. The small estate affidavit, however, can only be used to transfer personal property to a beneficiary. It cannot be used in the transfer of real property. Property such as bank accounts and financial investment accounts can be transferred using the small estate affidavit.

Not all types of property will be included in calculating the value of the estate for purposes of the small estate affidavit. For instance, assets that would normally fall outside of probate are not included in the calculation. This includes:

  • Jointly held property

  • Life insurance with beneficiary designation

  • Death benefits

  • Payable on death accounts

  • Property held in trust

Additionally, these assets are not included in the small estate calculation:

  • Registered cars or motor vehicles

  • Numbered vessels

  • Registered manufactured or mobile home

  • Real estate outside of the State of California

Simplifying the Estate Planning and Probate Process

By putting a comprehensive estate plan in place now, you can avoid probate as much as possible or altogether. Reducing the size of your probate estate will cut back on time and expenses by making your beneficiaries eligible for use of things such as the small estate affidavit. The Law Office of Rodney Gould will work with you to craft an estate plan that maximizes the benefits of being proactive with your estate planning. We will listen to the details of your unique circumstances and create an estate plan based on you and what is important to you. Contact us today.