As a general rule, when a person dies in California holding real or personal property outside of a trust or without properly designated beneficiaries, the deceased person’s assets must be administered under the court’s supervision through a process known as “probate.” Probate proceedings can cost tens of thousands of dollars in statutory fees and administrative costs and can take years to resolve.

However, in limited cases California law provides for an exception through which a deceased person’s assets may be able to pass directly to his or her successors in interest outside of probate court. California Probate Code Section 13100 provides that personal property (i.e., tangible personal items or cash assets) may be transferred to a decedent’s successors without the need for formal probate proceedings, when the following requirements are satisfied:

  1. Decedent died a resident of California
  2. At least 40 days have elapsed since decedent’s date of death
  3. The gross value of real and personal property held in decedent’s probate estate does not exceed either:
    • $184,500.00, for deaths occurring on or after April 1, 2022
    • $166,250.00 for deaths occurring prior to April 1, 2022

    If the above conditions are met, then the decedent’s personal representative may transfer personal property pursuant to California Probate Code Section 13100, by submitting an affidavit for collection or transfer of personal property in accordance with California Probate Code Section 13101. The affidavit must be signed under penalty of perjury, so it is critical that you consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that the property is eligible for transfer as a small estate.

    Allyson S. Heller is a licensed attorney at the Law Offices of Tony J. Tyre, ESQ, APC. For more information, please contact our office at (626) 858-9378, or