What is a small estate affidavit and how to use it in California

Learn about Small Estate Affidavits in California

When someone passes away in California, the process of transferring ownership of his or her property can be complicated. Going through probate is a long and expensive process. Luckily, California Probate Code 13050 formed a procedure to allow beneficiaries to inherit without going through formal probate proceedings: small estate affidavits.

In this article, we’ll explore what a small estate affidavit is, why it’s used, who can file for one, what documents must be included with it, how to file it, and any fees associated with filing one in California.

What is a Small Estate Affidavit?

A small estate affidavit is a legal document used to transfer the title of certain types of personal property upon the death of an individual. This document can be used to claim specific types of assets, such as cash and securities. Sometimes, an individual may opt not to go through formal probate proceedings and use a small estate affidavit instead. This can streamline the process but may also incur additional taxes or fees.

It’s important to note that only certain items are eligible for transfer via a small estate affidavit; those include bank accounts; stocks; bonds; publicly traded investments; vehicles registered in California; life insurance policies with proceeds lower than $166,250.

Pros and Cons of Affidavits for the Collection of Personal Property

When considering an affidavit for the acquisition of personal property in California, it’s important to weigh both its advantages and drawbacks. An affidavit can help you save time and money by avoiding probate court proceedings; however, there are some restrictions that may not make it a feasible option. Let us dive into the primary pros and cons of this route before making any decisions.

Pros of Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property

When a person passes away without having created a will, an affidavit for collecting personal property can provide invaluable help. Affidavits come with many advantages, including:

  • As opposed to enduring the lengthy formal probate process, it takes far less time to gain access to assets when using this method.
  • Compared to probate, the costs associated with this process are relatively low.

Cons of Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property

As with everything, there are certain drawbacks and boundaries that come along with using affidavits – such as:

  • The estate must be valued at less than $166,250
  • Any potential successors who may have a legal right to the claim must sign and acknowledge an affidavit in order for it to be valid.
  • Unfortunately, this process does not apply to the transfer of real estate.

Instructions for Filing a California Small Estate Affidavit

The process of creating a California small estate affidavit can be complicated, but it is necessary in order to transfer the title of certain types of personal property upon the death of an individual. Below are some detailed instructions on how to file a California small estate affidavit.

1. Prepare the Small Estate Affidavit 

The first step is the preparation of the Small Estate Affidavit.  Make sure this is prepared accurately and correctly. 

2. Include Necessary Attachments 

You are required to include a copy of the deceased person’s death certificate with your Small Estate Affidavit when submitting it to any institution that would accept a Small Estate Affidavit in lieu of a formal Order for Probate and Letters of Administration.

3. Get The Form Notarized

Once all signatures have been obtained and all required attachments have been included, you must then have your small estate affidavit notarized by an authorized official such as a Notary Public.

4. Obtain Other Signatures

Any other individuals with a legal entitlement to inheritance from the deceased must sign an affidavit granting you complete ownership of all property listed within it.

5. Transfer The Property

You must delay for 40 days after the date of death before taking a small estate affidavit and its accompanying documentation to any entity or organization that is in possession of the property you wish to have transferred into your name.


A small estate affidavit is an ideal option for those who wish to transfer ownership over certain types of personal property without going through lengthy probate proceedings. Before obtaining one, however, individuals should ensure they meet all requirements set forth by the state of California and ensure all necessary documentation has been included alongside their affidavit so it can be processed quickly without any lawful problems arising later down the line.

If you’d like help setting up a small estate affidavit after the passing of a loved one, please contact our office today.  Prior to a loved one’s passing, we can help them prepare an estate plan, living trust, or other legal documents to distribute property after they’re gone in order to make things easier for loved ones, please contact us today! Laguna Legal has been helping our clients with their legal documents for over 24 years. At Laguna Legal, we specialize in making the process of creating legal documents simple, smooth, and affordable.

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