Small probates come in different sizes

Lately I seem to have a run of small probate matters and I can say that small probates come in different sizes.  Though the rules are fairly simple I thought you might like to hear some fact patterns so you could see probate code section 13150 and 13200 inaction in real life!

  1. Messed up Title in Auburn: This one is a huge mess! The family wants to sell the property but there was something like 8 or 9 siblings on the property at one point. One had deeded property to their kids and back, one or two deeded to the trust (good but one of them died), a couple have died with no wills, and a few are still alive. It is a big ol’ mess but we came in and did three things:  1) for the sibling that just died we are doing a probate code 13150 succession to real property (though his interest is less than $50k the family doesn’t want to wait the 6 months required for probate code 13200 under $50k affidavit), 2) we are doing an under $50k affidavit for at least one (if not two) siblings that died with no wills or trusts, and 3) we are doing a deed from the trust to the beneficiary for one of the siblings who put his interest into a trust.
  2. 3/5th’s have died in Suisun City: I had never been to Suisun before a couple years ago and I must say it’s a cool little city. We stayed overnight at a hotel on the water and ate breakfast at a great little cafe a block over. However, this is a not a travel blog. My Solano county small case is a property that had been deeded to five children many years ago. Only two of them are alive and the three that died did not have proper California living trusts. Thus we have 3/5ths needing to be cleared but each 1/5th interest is separate. Luckily the value of the property is such that each 1/5th will be under $50,000 and thus we can do the probate code 13200 affidavit to the transfer the property to the rightful heirs. However, it costs money and it takes time. As with the first case these people want to sell!
  3. 1/2 of farm land in Fresno: We are still working out the details but it appears that back in 2004 a gentleman died with a 1/2 interest in a farm in Fresno. For whatever reason that 1/2 interest was not in a trust at his death but nobody realized it until recently.  Like the capped crusader in flies the California Probate attorney to save the day! We are doing an under $150,000 succession to get this title cleared up and into the rightful heir’s names. However, it’s a little bit of a mess as we first need to confirm it is a 1/2 interest and not a 100% interest (my first look at the title history is not clear) and then we can send the inventory to the probate referee for valuation.
  4. US based financial account for person living in Europe: This is an interesting one as it’s fairly unique. The account is worth about $200,000 and is invested with a major US investment brokerage in the decedent’s name. She was a resident of a European country but, at some point in time, had opened this US account as she has relatives here in California. She left a will which left everything to her surviving spouse. At first we were thinking we might have to do an ancillary probate but, after digging into it a bit, I think we are going to be able to utilize a California Spousal Property Petition to get this account, and it’s holdings, transferred to the surviving spouse. We are working on this now and just waiting for the official translation of the will. This is in Los Angeles county as that is where the investment bank account was held.
  5. US based bank account for person living in Australia: This one has been going on for over a year. We were contacted by an attorney in Australia who was helping some people down there (or is that “down under?”) clean up their mother’s financial affairs. She had left a bank account at a San Diego based bank with an unknown amount of money. We got letters issued by the San Diego probate court and quickly determined there was about $200,000 in the account. However, things started to slow down there. In order to get the money out we need to get a tax ID number for the estate.  The problem is we can’t get a tax ID number without a social security number. The kids are Australian and/or New Zealand citizens and do not have US social security numbers or international tax ID numbers (ITINs).  They are in the process of trying to obtain ITINs but that process is extremely slow. The last letter from the IRS indicated the people had to send their original passports to the IRS. Understandably they were reluctant to do so. In the meantime we wait. Hopefully the money is collecting interest while we wait!?

These are just some examples.  I thought you might like to see what small estates look like. Some end up as “full probates” but they are small full probates (like #5) while others utilize the more efficient options like under $50k affidavits, under $150k successions, or spousal property petitions. We always look at all options so we can do what is best for our client!  It’s important that you work with an attorney that knows what all the options are so that they can explain them all to you!

Here’s a link to a page on my website that talks about some of these options.

Here is a link to the $50k affidavit.

Best of luck dealing with the California probate process!

-John

Call Us Today