When a family member or friend dies with a small estate, California law may allow the assets of the estate to be distributed to the heir without a formal probate.  There are two main methods recognized by the California Probate Code which allow avoidance of a formal probate, which is costly in time and money, and is a complicated process with finite rules and technicalities.  Which should be used of the two main methods depends on the gross value of all California real property in the estate. 

The first method, called the affidavit procedure, can be utilized when the gross fair market value of real property in the estate does not exceed $50,000.  The affidavit procedure under the Probate Code allows for the transfer of the estate assets by affidavit and without a formal probate.  The second method, called the summary proceeding, must be used when the gross fair market value of the real property is more than $50,000 and the gross value of the total estate does not exceed $150,000 (not including certain types of property).  In the summary court proceeding, the Probate Court is empowered to determine who will inherit the estate without a formal probate. 

Both methods are favorable when the value of the estate is small, there are no serious tax issues, the number of heirs to the estate are few, the deceased person had few or almost no debts or creditors, and there are no or minor disputes about who should be an heir to the estate and how distribution of the estate should occur.  Despite the fact that these two methods exist, the two methods are not to be used to try and avoid paying the debts of the deceased person.  Despite the fact that these two methods are not as complicated as a formal probate, each method described is a technical procedure which requires a thorough knowledge of the law.  Anyone considering transferring the estate assets of a deceased family member or friend should consult the Chilina Law Firm or another California attorney practicing in the area of estate planning and probate for a review of their case.

Authored by Gregory J. Chilina and co-authored by Karen Chilina

Chilina Law Firm, a Professional Corporation, is a full-service estate planning, probate, trust administration, business law, and real property law firm that provides a wide-range of advising, transactional, and litigation services to its clients from its office located in Atascadero, California. The firm’s attorneys represent individuals and business entities in an assortment of transactional and litigation matters involving estate planning (including trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives), probate, trust administration, as well as general business law, contracts, corporate governance, land use, and real property. Chilina Law can be contacted by telephone at (805) 538-5038 or by email atinfo@chilinalaw.comor visit the Chilina Law Firm atwww.chilinalaw.com. Chilina Law Firm is based in Atascadero, California and serves North San Luis Obispo County communities, including Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Templeton, Paso Robles, and San Miguel.

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