If you die without an estate plan in the state of California, your estate is subject to probate. In addition, even if you have a trust but have not properly transferred assets to the trust, your heirs will be subject to probate court. However, depending on the value of those assets, your loved ones may be able to avoid formal probate through a “Small Estate Affidavit,” or an affidavit for transfer of personal property worth $150,000 or less. 

Through the completion of a small estate affidavit, those that have a legal right to inherit your personal property may transfer any and all of it to your rightful heirs 40 days after your death. 

The benefit of this process is that none of the time consuming and expensive aspects of probate-like appraisals, bond premiums, newspaper publication, and large attorney fees- are required. 

However, it is imperative the individual completing the small estate affidavit receive legal advice. The individual completing the affidavit agrees to take on personal responsibility for all of the decedent’s debts by signing the affidavit. If creditors are of concern at the time of death, a formal probate may still be the best option.

The key here is to determine if the total value of your estate is under $150,000, which would include ALL assets, both personal and real, that are subject to probate. 

Assets that are not subject to California probate are:

-Real estate outside of California

Real estate held in joint tenancy 

-Multiple-owner accounts

-Vehicles, mobile homes, boats

-Life estate assets

-Any other property passing directly to the surviving spouse

-Assets with beneficiaries named (POD/TOD)


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.