Small Estate Probate Exception
In California, small estates do not need to be probated. The definition of “small estate” has increased to $150,000 for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2012. Joint tenancy accounts, pay on death accounts, and accounts with beneficiary designations are not included in calculating the value of the estate.
Heirs or beneficiaries of a person who died with a small estate must file an affidavit with the person or institution holding assets in the name of the deceased. The affidavit cannot be filed until 40 days has passed from the date of death. Any heir or beneficiary receiving property under this procedure is subject to the claims of creditors of the deceased up to the value of the property received.
There may be other complications resulting from the use of this procedure. In some cases, it is advisable to file a probate procedure even though it is not required. A consultation with an attorney is always advised.