Transfers of Small Estates without Probate

In California there is no legal requirement for probate if the value of the estate is less than $150,000. To use this Affidavit the heir signs a Declaration before a California Notary Public and delivers the Affidavit to the financial institutions to obtain the balances therein contained.

More Information:

Since January 2012, California law allows inheritors to completely skip probate when the deceased had a “small estate” the value of which was no more than  $150,000 in ordinary assets. Because numerous items – including cars, jointly owned property, and everything in a living trust – can be excluded in calculating these amounts, this law can help many families avoid the time and costs of going through probate. Here are the steps for a "small estate" transfer.

Estate Plans by Experienced and Knowledgeable Attorney

(Over 30 Years of Experience)

Law Offices of Jackson A Morris III

Belmont, California

(650) 595-0643


1. Calculate the value of the assets

The next step for the inheritor is to prepare, or have an attorney prepare, a notarized affidavit – a written statement under oath – that they are entitled to the property of the deceased. The affidavit must include various other statements that the law requires, including a truthful statement that no other person has a right to the deceased’s interest in the described property.

Numerous items must be attached to the affidavit. These include:
  • A certified copy of the death certificate; :
  • Evidence that the decedent owned the property (e.g., stock certificate, bank passbook, storage receipt)
  • Reasonable proof of the identity of the persons signing the affidavit (e.g., notarized affidavit, driver’s license)
  • An inventory and appraisal of all real estate, if any, owned by the decedent in California

The affidavit must be presented to banks, brokerage firms, and other businesses or individuals holding the deceased’s assets in order to take possession of those assets.

2. Prepare an affidavit

In calculating the value of the deceased’s assets and real estate, all items are included except:
  • Vehicles, trailers, mobile homes, manufactured homes, commercial coaches, truck campers, floating homes, and vessels without documents;
  • Unpaid salary of any amount owing for services in the armed forces, and up to $5,000 owing for services from other employment;
  • Joint tenancy property, life estates, and property passing outright to a surviving spouse;
  • Multiple-party accounts that pass on death directly to another party on the account; accounts that were payable-on-death to another person; and all real estate or other assets held in a living trust.

Real estate that does not fall into one of these categories must be appraised by a probate referee, and this appraisal must be used to calculate the property’s value.

3. Change title to assets

If the deceased had assets with a formal title, such as real estate or a motor vehicle, the title must be changed into the inheritor’s name. Otherwise, the inheritor will not be able to sell or refinance these items.

To transfer real estate, an affidavit must be filed within six months after the death with the Superior Court in the county where the deceased lived. If the deceased was not a California resident, the affidavit may be filed in the county where the property is located. No hearing is set after this filing.