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Probate law and the new process to settle small estates

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2020 | Estate Planning

Under California law, there is now a simple procedure beneficiaries can use to settle estates with assets that do not exceed a certain level. 

The new law helps these small estates avoid probate and simplifies the task of transferring assets. 

Probate explained

Probate refers to a court case that verifies the validity of a will and decides the value of a decedent’s property. The probate court charges the decedent’s personal representative with the responsibility of winding up the estate and distributing the assets to the appropriate heirs. The process usually takes between 9 and 18 months, sometimes longer. 

About the new law

As of January 1, 2020, a simplified procedure for settling small estates is available under California law. The old law for defining a small estate established a threshold of $150,000 but the new law raises that maximum to $166,250. So, if a decedent had personal and real property valued at a combined $166,250 or less, the assets will not have to go through the probate process. 

The small estate affidavit

If 40 days have passed since the death of the decedent and no probate proceeding is underway, a beneficiary can provide the court with a small estate affidavit to acquire personal property, such as the proceeds of the decedent’s bank account. Among other information, the affidavit must show the “current gross fair market value” of the asset and confirm that the personal representative of the decedent has provided written consent for the transfer, payment or delivery of the property described.