Estate Attorney in Los Angeles

Probate administration is the process in which upon the probate court determines who receives a decedent’s assets. Smaller estates, or estates that have probate assets that are less than $166,250, can have their assets passed along to the intended beneficiaries or rightful heirs without going through the formal probate administration process. This process can be accomplished through an affidavit known as a Small Estate Affidavit presented by the heir or beneficiary.

What Qualifies as A Small Estate?

For an estate to qualify as a small estate under California law, the value of the property contained within the estate must not exceed $166,250. This value is calculated by totaling the value of all property, including household items, money in bank account, stocks, money that the decedent is owed, and life insurance and retirement benefits that are payable to the estate.

What Is Excluded from the Valuation of a Small Estate?

All property that would not be subject to the formal probate administration process is excluded when assessing the value of a small estate. This includes assets which are held in joint tenancy, assets that are transferable directly to a surviving spouse at one’s death, property held by the decedent in a revocable living trust, real property outside of California, debts and mortgages, banks accounts that were not solely held by the decedent, life insurance policies and death benefits that are payable directly to a beneficiary other than the estate, and registered vehicles.

A Small Estate Affidavit

An affidavit is used to facilitate the transfer of all of the assets of an estate which qualify as a small estate to the intended beneficiary or rightful heir upon the death of a loved one except for real property and registered automobiles. After a decedent’s death, the person with a legal right to inherit the property must fill out the affidavit and present it to the holder of the property, like a financial institution. Furthermore, one must either be the beneficiary to the will or the rightful heir if there is no will. The Small Estate Affidavit form can be downloaded by clicking here.

The beneficiary or heir is entitled to receive the property upon presenting the affidavit to the person holding the property 41 days or more after the decedent’s death. A copy of the decedent’s death certificate, proof of the beneficiary/heir’s identity, and proof that the property in fact belonged to the decedent must also be presented in order to gain ownership. Further, the property holder can be compelled by the court to turn over the property if he or she refuses to do so.

If you are legally entitled to inherit property and need professional help, contact our estate attorneys for further information.