Probate Shortcuts for Small Estates in California

Probate Shortcuts for Small Estates in California

The state of California offers procedures that allow a family to avoid or simplify probate of a relative’s estate after their death. The three most common tools for streamlining the probate process are the use of the spousal property petition, the claiming of property with a simple affidavit and the simplified probate procedure.

The spousal property petition is a tool written into California’s Probate Code. The petition allows the property of the decedent (deceased person) to be transferred to their spouse. This petition can be filed by the surviving spouse or their representative. Property will be transferred depending on whether the decedent has left a will and the contents of that will. Specifically:

  • When there is a will and it names the surviving spouse as the sole beneficiary, then all property in the will can be transferred through the petition.
  • When the will names multiple beneficiaries, the spouse’s share can be transferred through the petition.
  • If there is no will, the property that the law would give to the spouse through intestate succession can be transferred by petition.

An experienced probate attorney can help you understand whether this petition is the right option for you.

A second option allows property to be claimed by other relatives through an affidavit under certain conditions. This procedure is only applicable when the entire estate is worth less than $150,000 and the property being transferred is personal property (not real estate). Beneficiaries under a will or heirs under the law can use this process to simplify the transfer of money, stocks and physical objects. There may be complications when multiple people have a right to inherit property. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand whether filing an affidavit is the right process for you.

The third option is called simplified probate. When an estate is valued at under $150,000, the family can avoid formal probate proceedings and distribute the property using simple rules. Different procedures exist depending on the value of the estate and whether there is real property (real estate) involved. In order to initiate this process, permission must be granted by a local probate court. An estate planning attorney can help you determine the value of the estate and whether this procedure makes sense for your family.

Attorney Eugene Alkana at the Law Offices of Eugene Alkana helps Pasadena families through the probate process. When you need help probating a will or choosing an alternative, call us at 626-788-3952 or contact us online for a free phone consultation.