Synopsis of California’s Small Estates Affidavit Procedure to Transfer Estate Assets to the Lawful Beneficiaries

Probating a will can be a time-consuming and expensive process. To alleviate these problems for smaller estates, California has enacted California Probate Code 13050, et seq.  This statutory scheme provides a procedural mechanism that allows a beneficiary to inherit a small estate easily and cost-effectively, without spending the time and money required for a formal probate proceeding. Below we summarize the requirements for utilizing the Small Estates Affidavit procedure to transfer estate property to the estate’s lawful beneficiaries.

Who Qualifies for the Small Estates Affidavit Procedure?

The small estate procedure is available to anyone having a legal right to inherit property from the deceased. People who qualify include a beneficiary in the deceased’s will, by intestate succession, and the guardian or conservator of the estate.  You must also wait until 40 days after death to invoke this process.  In addition, if a probate process has already commenced, you would need the written consent of the estate’s personal representative to go forward with the procedure. 

What Estates Qualify for the Small Estates Procedure?

Currently, the estate must be worth $184,500 or less to qualify for small estates administration. The value of the estate is based on what it was worth on the date of death, not on the property’s current value.  Another major limitation is that it cannot be used to transfer real property, like a house or land, although such property is included for purposes of determining whether the $184,500 limitation has been met.

To figure out if the value of all the decedent’s property (the estate) is $184,500 or less, include all real and personal property owned by the decedent and all life insurance or retirement benefits that will be paid to the estate.  Do not include any insurance or retirement benefits designated to be paid to some other person, cars, boats or mobile homes, real property outside of California, or property held in trust, including a living trust.  Also exclude real or personal property that the person who died owned with someone else (joint tenancy), property that passed directly to the surviving spouse, and any asset that passes directly to the beneficiaries upon death. You also are not allowed to subtract the debts of the person who died from the calculation. For a complete list, see California Probate Code section 13050

If the total value of the remaining assets is $184,500 or less, you can transfer personal property by way of the small estates affidavit procedure. You can list all assets in one affidavit, or prepare one affidavit for each asset.

What Other Documentation is Required?

The asset holder will generally require the following additional documents before effectuating the transfer:

  • A certified copy of the death certificate of the person who died
  • Proof that the person who died owned the property, such as a stock certificate or bank passbook, and
  • Proof of your identity, such as a driver’s license or passport

Consent from Other Lawful Beneficiaries is Required

If there are other people entitled to inherit the property, they must also sign the affidavit confirming that all agree that the property listed on your affidavit can be transferred to you.

Presentment of Affidavit to Custodian of Property

If both the estate and personal qualifications above have been met, you are ready to present the affidavit and supporting documents to the asset holder to complete the small estate affidavit procedure. 

Please contact Lynx Legal Service with any questions regarding the above or if you need a Small Claims Affidavit prepared.  We will handle the paperwork expeditiously and at a below market price for the service.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or  Our experienced professionals are standing by to start your case or answer any questions you may have.

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