Monday, November 24, 2008

Distributing a Small Estate

California has numerous expedited procedures for distributing small estates. These procedures can be quite useful for quickly and efficiently dealing with small estates if certain requirements are met.

One procedure (Probate Code section 13100) applies to estates which consist of less than $100,000 in assets (including real estate assets) which must be probated. (Note that the $100,000 figure does not include assets transferred through Joint Tenancy, in trust, in pay on death accounts, or by other non-probate methods; this means that this procedure can be applied to a very large estate as long as the estate only has $100,000 in assets which need to be probated.) Although this procedure expedites the distribution of the probate estate, it cannot be used to distribute real property. This procedure allows you (beneficiaries or heirs) to collect and distribute the decedent's personal property to the decedent's beneficiaries (if there is a will) or heirs (if there is no will) simply by presenting a declaration to the court.

Probate Code section 13151 also applies to estates (or portions of estates) which consist of less than $100,000 in assets, and provides for the court to issue an order which clears title to either real property or to real property and personal property (but not solely personal property). Such an order can be utilized to determine that a person (a beneficiary or heir) has succeeded to a decedent's real property, or real and personal property, as the case may be.

These procedures can be very helpful in expediting the distribution of a small estate (or a large estate with a small amount of assets which need to be probated), but they must be used with care because there are many requirements which must be met in order to utilize them.

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