Currently you can pass up to $100,000 after death without going through probate. California Probate Code 13100 provides the backbone of that. It’s pasted below. I have heard the California legislature is changing that to $150,000 effective January 1, 2012. Let’s see….
California Probate Code Section 13100
Excluding the property described in Section 13050, if the
gross value of the decedent’s real and personal property in this
state does not exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) and if
40 days have elapsed since the death of the decedent, the successor
of the decedent may, without procuring letters of administration or
awaiting probate of the will, do any of the following with respect to
one or more particular items of property:
(a) Collect any particular item of property that is money due the
(b) Receive any particular item of property that is tangible
personal property of the decedent.
(c) Have any particular item of property that is evidence of a
debt, obligation, interest, right, security, or chose in action
belonging to the decedent transferred, whether or not secured by a
lien on real property.