Upon your death or the death of a loved one, certain assets may need to pass through probate, depending on the circumstances. While there are tools that can help you avoid probate, such as a living trust, it is also important to understand that not all estates are required to go through probate. Specifically, California law does not require estates worth $166,250 or less to go through the full probate process. There is a simplified process available for estates of this size.
However, there are a few important things you should know about the simplified small estates process. Read below to find out more.
Small Estate Probate in California
The first step in this process is to determine the correct value of the estate. This may be straightforward in some situations, and overly complicated in others, depending on the type of assets in the estate. Thus, you should speak with a California probate law attorney to assist in accurately determining the value of the estate to ensure that it qualifies for this simplified process.
When attempting to calculate the estate's value, it is important to know what to include and what not to include. You should include all real and personal property held by the decedent. Do not include real property that is jointly held or held in other states. You should also include any retirement or life insurance benefits that will go towards the estate, but not towards other individuals.
There are certain assets you should not include when determining the estate's value. This could include property outside of California or property that was inherited by the decedent's spouse or domestic partner. Property held in a living trust does not have to go through probate, so it should not be included. If the decedent has up to $5,000 in unpaid wages or if they have debts, you would not include these while calculating the estate's worth.
If you have any doubts about what to include or not include, then a probate attorney in California can help with the process. If the assets total $166,250 or less, the estate will not need to go through the full California probate process.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Probate in California?
This is where the process can get complicated, especially if there was no will left behind by the decedent. If there is a will and you are a beneficiary, then it is easier to determine whether you can inherit property. In that case, you would file an affidavit and go through the affidavit process with the court. There are additional steps and requirements involved with filing an affidavit, not all of which are obvious. Keep in mind, you cannot transfer real properties like homes through the affidavit process.
You should speak with a California estate lawyer for assistance if you have any doubts about how the process works.
Without a will, California state law determines who will inherit property. California law would determine whether you are considered a “heir at law” to certain properties. You can also speak to a California estate planning lawyer for help determining whether you are a legal heir.
About Our Bay Area Estate Law Firm
Davidson Estate Law can help you with estate and probate issues. We have decades of experience helping Bay Area residents and can meet with you in person to discuss your situation. Our firm has offices in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, San Jose and San Mateo. You may call (510) 527-6774 or use our online contact form to schedule a consultation.