When Can You Use California Simplified Probate Shortcuts?
Going through the formal probate procedure to distribute an estate’s assets can be very costly, stressful and time-consuming. California simplified probate can be used for assets in small estates and property transferred to surviving spouses. Through small estate probate, you can minimize your and your heirs and beneficiaries’ time, money, and frustration.
An experienced probate attorney can help you create an estate plan to avoid or simplify probate.
What Is California Simplified Probate?
California simplified probate will save time and money when you or your loved ones execute an estate in the State. This simplified “Summary Probate” proceeding allows heirs and beneficiaries to obtain title or possession of estate property quickly. This is because little to no court supervision is necessary.
California also allows you to use an affidavit procedure to collect certain types of assets from an estate. This eliminates the need for formal or simplified probate.
In California, there are two types of estate property that let you avoid or speed up probate, as described below.
1. Surviving Spousal Property
The “Spousal (or Domestic Partner) Property Petition” process exists to transfer property to a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner. This streamlined procedure requires you to submit the petition to the probate court for approval.
Though this process involves the court, it is easier and faster than formal probate. In addition, there is no cap on the value of assets that can be transferred through Spousal Property Petition.
2. Small Estates
California simplified probate also extends to “Small Estates”. These are estates with a value of $150,000 or less. Individually-owned property without a named beneficiary count toward this $150,000 limit. Jointly-owned assets, accounts with designated beneficiaries, real estate outside California, salary up to $15,000, and money in trusts don’t.
To use California simplified probate for a small estate, you will need to make sure of three things. First, there can’t be an open probate case for the estate. Second, the executor of the estate must give written permission for you to use this process to collect your inheritance. Third, you will have to wait 40 days (6 months if the estate’s value is $50,000 or less).
If you are inheriting assets from a small estate in California, you will need to prepare an affidavit. This written request will need to be signed under oath and provide the following information:
- The county where the deceased lived or the estate property is located;
- The estimated value of the estate;
- A description of the estate property you are entitled to and requesting;
- You name, age, address and relationship to the deceased; and
- The executor’s name.
You need to file the affidavit with a county superior court where the deceased lived or the property is located. Whoever has the property or funds will have to release them to you once you provide them the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate.
How California Simplified Probate Works?
The first step of California simplified probate is to request to administer an estate under “Summary Probate”. The executor or surviving spouse or close family member does this by filing a petition with a county superior court.
This written request needs to state why the estate qualifies for Summary Probate under state law. Typically, these petitions will provide that the total value of estate property makes it a small estate. You must file the petition will with:
- A copy of the will;
- A list of all heirs and beneficiaries; and
- An inventory of the property in the estate.
The next step is for the petitioner to notify all heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the probate proceeding. Notice must be published in a local newspaper where the decedent died at least three times before the probate hearing. An affidavit from the newspaper must be filed with the court to prove that notice was provided.
Following notice, there is typically a waiting period. The intention is to give creditors, beneficiaries and heirs time to file their claims. Filing these claims with the court is necessary. However, it is a shorter and simpler process than in formal probate.
Once all the estate’s assets have been distributed and creditors have been paid, the estate can be closed. The executor files a document showing the court that assets have been distributed and debts and taxes have been paid. The court then issues an order closing the estate.