California law allows “small estates” to be collected without probate. It is typically a very simple and inexpensive process, especially when compared to probating an estate. One downside has been that a small estate’s gross value, until now, had to be less than $100,000.00.
However, as of January 1, 2012, this amount has increased to $150,000.00. See Probate Code §13100.
In order to use the procedure, all of the following must be true:
- No probate proceedings have been initiated;
- 40 days must have elapsed since the decedent’s passing; and,
- The total gross value of assets is no greater than $150,000.00 not including the following assets:
- Joint tenancy property;
- Beneficiary designations;
- Motor vehicles registered with the DMV;
- Manufactured homes, campers, etc.
This applies to both real property (houses and land) and personal property (all other property). However, if real real property is involved, a court request is necessary but is far quicker and less expensive than a full probate. Personal property can be collected by a affidavit so long as it meets certain requirements. See Probate Code §13150.
It should be noted that some websites (including a publisher of well known legal “do it yourself books”) say that real property cannot be collected without a full probate unless it has a value of less than $50,000. However this is incorrect. These sites are seemingly referring to a procedure at Probate Code §13200, not Probate Code §13100 – 13150.