Summary Probate/Proceedings for Small Estates

California law provides for procedures to transfer title in estates were the aggregate amount of probatable assets are worth less than $100,000 ($150,000 beginning January 1, 2012). The procedure can be used to collect money owed to the decedent or receive the decedent's tangible personal property such as funds on account at banks. The procedures for the transfer of small estates are often referred to as "Summary Probate Proceedings."

The procedure is available whether or not the decedent had a will and can be used in the event an asset of small value was not titled into the name of a trust. The main stipulation is that the aggregate value of the decedent's estate cannot be greater than $100,000 ($150,000 beginning January 1, 2012).  In calculating the amount of the estate for use of this procedure, assets that would otherwise avoid probate are excluded in determining the value.

Attorney fees for these procedures are not dictated by statute as are probate fees, meaning they can be negotiated. The value of automobiles or mobile homes is not considered when determining the amount of the estate for this proceeding. There are several other exclusions that make this a useful approach for many people.

Affidavit

The affidavit process requires that certain allegations are made and sworn to by the affiant. Certain general information about the decedent must be supplied. The affiant must swear that the gross value of the decedent's real and personal property in California does not exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($150,000 beginning January 1, 2012), and that 40 days have elapsed since the decedent's death. The process is not available if a proceeding for the administration of the estate has been conducted in California and the affiant must allege that there is not or has not been an administration. The affiant must provide a description of the property to be transferred. The affiant must allege that they are the person or persons entitled to the property as successor of the decedent (beneficiary under a will or heir by intestacy law) or that they are authorized to act on behalf of the successor of the decedent (such as the trustee of a trust, guardian, custodian or agent acting under a power of attorney). The affiant must allege that no other person has a greater right to the property and request that the property be paid, delivered or transferred.

Real Property Valued at Less than $20,000 ($50,000 beginning January 1, 2012)
If all real property a decedent owned in California is worth less than $20,000 $50,000 beginning January 1, 2012), probate may be avoided and the property transferred by a small estates process involving an affidavit procedure.

Automobiles

If there is no other property that needs to be probated, a person named in a Will or an heir of a deceased person can complete a declaration and submit it to the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to transfer title to a registered motor vehicle from the deceased to themselves.

Mobile Homes

Similar to the procedure to transfer a motor vehicle is a device to transfer title to a registered mobile home. The form is available from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

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