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Agoura Hills Estate Planning, Probate & Trust Attorneys

What qualifies as a “Small Estate” under California law?

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Stephens Law Group

What qualifies as a “Small Estate” under California law?

Under California law, an estate valued at $188,400 or less (for deaths on or after April 1, 2022) qualifies as a “small estate." CA Probate Code §13100.

And this value is adjusted every 3 years to account for inflation. CA Probate Code §890.

When the decedent’s estate falls within this threshold, a Small Estate Affidavit can usually be used to collect the decedent’s property, instead of a formal probate court proceeding (which typically takes 10-18 months). Avoiding probate court can save a lot of time and money.

To qualify for the Small Estate Affidavit, the following conditions must generally be met:

  • The gross value of the decedent’s real and personal property in California must not exceed $184,500 (subject to adjustment for inflation).
  • The estate must consist primarily of personal property (e.g., bank accounts, vehicles, furniture, jewelry) and may include real property valued at $55,425 or less.
  • The decedent’s debts and funeral expenses must have been paid or provisions made to pay them.
  • No formal probate proceeding is being or has been conducted in California.
  • At least 40 days must have elapsed since the decedent’s death.

Some other important considerations:

  • If the small estate includes real property, an Inventory & Appraisal must be completed by a California Probate Referee.
  • The value of the small estate shouldn't include the value of the Decedent's real property held in joint tenancy, or as community property with right of survivorship, both of which would pass directly to the surviving co-owner.
  • The Small Estate Affidavit :
    • Should be notarized;
    • Should be signed under oath;
    • Works best if all Claimants (the people who are supposed to share the estate) sign it.
  • You'll need to include a certified copy of the Death Certificate, and perhaps other documentation.

Even if a CA estate qualifies as a “small estate,” it’s still advisable to consult with an attorney or legal professional to ensure that all requirements are met and to navigate the process correctly.

Got more questions? Call us (818-707-8200) to discuss your case.

[For informational purposes only. May not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult an attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.]