California Probate Code section 13100 provides for a Small Estate Probate
in order to avoid a
full probate if the decedent’s real and personal property in the state of California
does not exceed $150,000 at the time of the decedent’s death.
The Small Estate Probate is a simplified process that does not require
an heir to go to court in order to inherit personal property (such as
money in a bank account or stocks). However, this process is not applicable
to inheriting real property (such as a house). The only requirements for
using this simplified probate procedure is (a) an estate that does not
exceed the $150,000 valuation, (b) a 40 day waiting period after the decedent’s
death, and (c) a written declaration (often called a Small Estate Affidavit)
to the person or agency that has the property or is in charge of the transfer
of the property.
How Do I Determine if an Estate is Worth $150,000 or Less?
In order to determine if an estate is eligible for a Small Estate Probate,
the following should be calculated:
- All real and personal property, and
- All life insurance or retirement benefits that will be paid to the estate
Excluded from the calculation are:
- Cars, boats, mobile homes
- Real property outside of California
- Property held in trust, including a living trust
- Real or personal property held in joint tenancy
- Property that passed directly to the surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Life insurance, death benefits not subject to probate that pass directly
to the beneficiaries
- Unpaid salary or other compensation up to $5000 owed to the decedent
- The debts or mortgages of the person who died (these are not allowed to
be subtracted for purposes of the estate valuation)
- Bank accounts owned by multiple persons, including the decedent
- Some payments if the decedent was in the armed forces
- For other exclusions see California Probate Code section 13050
How Do I Determine if I Have the Legal Right to Inherit the Property?
In order to inherit property, you must be a beneficiary in the decedent’s
will or an heir if the person died without a will. You may also be the
guardian or conservator of the estate, or serve another role as described
in California Probate Code section 13051.
If a person died without a valid will, the law will look at the type of
property, the relationship between all persons claiming to be heirs, and
other issues. It may be advisable to speak with a lawyer to determine
if you qualify as an heir to the property in question.