How to transfer assets from a small estate in California
California defines a small estate as one in which the assets are under $150,000. To take advantage of simplified procedures for small estates, you’ll follow one of three processes, depending on whether the estate includes real estate and the value of that real estate.
Small estate under $150,000 without real estate
If the estate is valued at less than $150,000 and doesn’t include real estate, you can claim assets under the small estate affidavit procedure. To do so, you must present an Affidavit for Collection Of Personal Property (a statement of facts that you swear is true) to the financial institution, DMV or other institution that holds or manages the non-real-estate asset.
For the affidavit to be valid, the following conditions must be met
- Estate assets are valued at less than $150,000
- At least 40 days have passed since the death of the decedent
- No probate proceeding is now or has been conducted in California, or the personal representative has consented to the affidavit transfer in writing
- An inventory and appraisal of the real property is included, and there is no real estate
- The affiant is a successor of the decedent, as defined by California law
- No other person has a higher priority to the decedent's assets. Priority is defined as who is legally entitled to the assets of the deceased — determined by the will, or if there is no will, by California’s laws of intestate succession
The affidavit does not have to be presented in court, but it must be notarized and available to present to the institutions where the asset(s) reside or who deal with title transfers.
Most institutions in California are familiar with the affidavit transfer process. However, if you are dealing with an institution that is not based in California or simply is ignorant of the small estate transfer procedures, you may have to educate them on the process.
Small estates with real estate under $150,000 in value.
For estates with total assets under $150,000 that include real estate, the Petition To Determine Succession To Real Property is a simplified probate procedure to transfer the deed of the real estate owned by the deceased.
This process will mirror the beginning of regular probate in that you must:
- Petition the Court
- Notify the Heirs
- Have a Court Hearing
- Provide an Inventory
- Obtain a Court Order
After the hearing, the court will issue an order that designates the successor of the property. This order can then be used as the official court authority to change the deed.
Note: If the house will be sold, the deed must be modified first.
While using the Petition To Determine Succession of Real Property doesn’t entirely eliminate the need for court involvement, once the court issues its order, the process is complete and you don’t need further administrative or court interaction. A traditional probate process would include many additional steps and interactions with the court before you could distribute any property.
Small estates with real property valued under $50,000
If the estate qualifies for the small estate exemption and has real estate valued at less than $50,000, you can use an Affidavit for Real Property of Small Value. This document is similar to the Affidavit for Collection of Real Property, but it does have to be presented to the court and signed by the judge or court clerk. Once you receive the signed copy, you will then be able to transfer the deed.
The Affidavit for Real Property of Small Value is often used to transfer real property like timeshares.
If you’re unsure about the right path forward, contact us. We can help you determine the correct procedure for your situation and correctly fill out the appropriate paperwork.