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California Small Estate Affidavit

When a California resident dies without any estate planning, or with only a will, their estate will ordinarily be subject to formal probate administration. Probate has strict rules about notices, timelines, compensation of the personal representative, and accounting to the beneficiaries. In many instances the personal representative must obtain court approval before he can act. As a result, probate administrations in Northern California typically take at least nine months.

A helpful alternative to probate is a “small estate affidavit.” When the value of the estate is less than $150,000, a decedent’s “successor” may execute an affidavit under penalty of perjury to collect the assets of the estate without going through probate.

A decedent’s “successor” is defined as either the beneficiary of the decedent’s will, or the decedent’s intestate heirs if the decedent died without a will. A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate must be attached to the affidavit, all successors must execute the affidavit, and it must contain the following information:

1. The decedent’s name, and the date and place of death.

2. A certification that 40 days have elapsed since the decedent’s death.

3. A certification that a probate administration has not been opened.

4. A certification that the gross fair market value of the decedent’s property does not exceed $150,000, with a description of the property.

5. Who the decedent’s successors are.

6. A certification that no one else has a greater claim to the decedent’s property than the decedent’s successors.


Once the affidavit has been properly completed and executed by the decedent’s successors, it can be presented to financial institutions and other entities in possession of decedent’s property to compel a transfer of the property to the successors.

In addition to the requirements discussed above, there are additional limitations, rules, and considerations that must be considered. Barr & Douds Attorneys, located inDanville,California, works with clients inWalnut Creek,Concord, and throughout the Bay Area to administer estates and trusts quickly and affordably.

Loren Barr
by Loren Barr
Updated: December 24, 2020

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