UPDATE AS OF APRIL 1, 2020 – THE LIMIT IS NOW $184,500 OR LESS. SUBSTITUTE $184,500 INSTEAD OF $150,000 or $166,250 IN THIS ARTICLE
To qualify for this section, rather than having to do a full probate, the decedent has to have owned California real property at their death. The total value can not exceed $166,250 as of the date of death. The assets of an estate can be a combination of real and personal property but in total can not exceed $166,250. The petition can not be filed until 40 days after death.
We have flat fee arrangements available in most small estate cases.
The first step is to have the assets appraised by the California probate referee using the date of death value. The probate referees are state appointed officials who are appointed to serve in a particular county or counties. You can check the California State Controller’s website for a complete list. If the value is $166,250 or less then California Probate Code 13150 can be used. A petition will be filed by the successor in interest or the out of state PR. If there are multiple people entitled to the property then they all would sign the petition. The petition is filed and there is a noticed hearing. Due to the requirement that all parties in interest have to sign we do occasionally do a full full probate instead of this small estate procedure as the full probate will allow YOU to stay in control. This would include control of getting that house sold!
The requirements are much less stringent than a full probate. Among other differences there is no bond requirement, there is no publication requirement and Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration) will not issue. An important distinction from a full probate is that the recipients are personally liable for the decedent’s debts up to extent of value of property at the time of death. With recent steep declines in real estate value this can become a problem if it turns out the decedent had creditors at death. It’s thus important to review your case with a qualified California probate attorney such as John Palley.
Attorney fees are set by agreement of the parties and can be either hourly or on a set fee depending on the facts of your case. There are no fees for the PR when using this code section.
If your estate is worth less than $50,000 (typically timeshares, fractional interests, vacant lots) then you could use California Probate Code 13200 to clear title to your real estate. PC 13200 is a little used section but can come in handy when you need to clear title to property which was of little value at the date of death. There is a California judicial council form for this. It can be filed 6 months after death by the successor in interest. The first step is to have the probate referee appraise the property as of the date of death and fill out an inventory and appraisal. Assuming the probate referee agrees the value is less than $50,000 then you would sign a petition which will be filed with the Court. The petition is notarized. Then the petition is filed along with the inventory, a certified death certificate and the appropriate state fee. If the decedent had a will a copy of the will should be attached. It is filed with the Court clerk who will issue one certified copy of the order for you to record. You would then record the order with the county recorder’s office to effectuate property transfer.
Attorney fees are by agreement of the parties. There are no fees for the PR when using this code section.