Small Estate Administration

Decedent estates with a value not exceeding $150,000 are eligible for summary procedures.  We show clients how to navigate these murky waters.

Examples of Small Estate Administration:

Example 1:  Daughter dies at age 48.    She is survived by her mother and brother.   She had neither a will nor a trust.  Her only asset is her 25% interest in a condominium.  Her one quarter interest appraises at $46,000 as of the date of death.  Because the value of her real estate is under $50,000, we are able transfer decedent’s interest through an affidavit filed in court pursuant to California Probate Code section 13200.  Mom, thus, can avoid the delay of a formal probate proceeding.

Example 2:  Aunt dies at age 81.  She is survived by several nephews and nieces.  She had a living trust and a pourover will.  Nephew Neil is her sole beneficiary under the living trust.  Aunt was the owner of EE Series bonds, which she did not transfer into the trust.  Her pourover will, however, provides that all her assets are transferred into the trust at death.    We prepared a notarized declaration for Nephew Neil under Probate Code section 13100 to effect the transfer of the bonds into Neil’s name.

There are petition, affidavit, and declaration methods.  Affidavits have 40 day waiting periods after decedent’s death.  Petitions have six-month holds.

These procedures are simple, but complicated.  They’re simple in principle, but often complicated in execution.  The relevant Probate Code sections are 13000 to 13500.

If the total value of the real property does not exceed $50,000, you might find it advantageous to wait until six months after the decedent’s death and proceed by way of an Affidavit re Real Property of Small Value (Form DE-305) under Prob C § 13200.  The affidavit filing fee is $30

Since you cannot file the petition until 40 days after the date of death and you then have to wait, depending on the court, perhaps as long as 45 days for a hearing, proceeding by affidavit does not really prolong the process unduly.

With the petition, you run the risk that the petitioners will be personally liable for any of the decedent’s unsecured debts (up to the value of the property that they receive).  Prob C § 13156(a).  With the affidavit, the affiant must allege that “[f]uneral expenses, expenses of last illness, and all unsecured debts of the decedent have been paid.”  Prob C § 13200(a)(8).

Both of these procedures are really intended for uncontested cases.  Otherwise, the matter may require formal probate administration.

Example 3:  Mike (age 69) was a Vietnam veteran.  He left an estate consisting of a Lincoln and Cadillac.  His will provided that Alan was to receive the Lincoln and Bill to receive the Cadillac.   Our office prepared the paperwork to transfer the vehicles to Alan and Bill.

To transfer a vehicle with the DMV, the beneficiary submits 7 documents.    Our office prepares three of the 7 documents:

1.       Statement of Facts (DMV Form Reg 256)

2.       Affidavit for Transfer Without Probate (DMV Form Reg 5)

3.       Declaration Under Penalty of Perjury