Whichever state you live in, probate can be extensive and complex. It can take months or even years to reach the end of the process. The procedure can be incredibly draining to a decedent’s surviving family members, who are still mourning the loss of their loved one. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the probate process, one of which is if the estate is small.
What qualifies as a small estate?
As of this writing (July 2023), a California estate with a total value under $184,500 of real and personal property is considered a small estate and can avoid probate. This rule applies to estate owner deaths from April 1, 2022, onwards.
How will the distribution process go?
The claiming and distribution process for small California estates will depend on whether they include real property.
- With real property: The estate will go through a simplified probate process called a Petition To Determine Succession To Real Property. In this process, the administrator will distribute the decedent’s real property to their heirs and beneficiaries through a deed transfer.
- Without real property: Heirs and beneficiaries can claim assets under the California small estate affidavit procedure. Note that there are certain conditions for the claim to be valid, such as that at least 40 days have passed since the decedent’s death and that the affiant is the decedent’s successor.
The relationship between the decedent and the beneficiary can also help determine the procedure.
Careful and meticulous calculation of the total value is essential to determine whether an estate qualifies for small estate proceedings. This should include life insurance proceeds and retirement benefits wherein the estate is the named beneficiary. This can be an overwhelming experience. Securing support from a probate expert can help you navigate the process.