Question 1: What is small estate probate?
The probate process is the legal process that applies after a California resident has died leaving behind property. That property, called an estate, will have to go through probate before new owners can take possession of the deceased person’s property. (The deceased person is often referred to as a decedent.) When the estate is valued at below a specified dollar amount a less formal set of probate procedures applies, known as small estate probate.
Question 2: How small does the estate have to be?
As of 2014, California estates that do not exceed $150,000 may take advantage of the so-called “small estate affidavit” . That $150,000 limit includes up to $50,000 worth of real estate, as well as any cash, bank accounts, or other personal property. However, it does not include property owned by a trust, property owned by joint tenants, most life insurance benefits, pensions or other retirement accounts, as well as a wide variety of other property that is not taken into account when evaluating the size of a probate estate. There is also a special procedure available for real property appraised at between $50,000 and $150,000.
Question 3: How does small estate probate get started?
To use the small estates procedure, you must be an heir of the decedent or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. You must wait 40 days after the decedent dies and then execute a sworn affidavit.
To ascertain whether or not the affidavit procedure is appropriate for your situation, consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.