Decedent's Estates, Wills & Trusts

Procedures that can be used to manage the assets and debts of a decedent, and / or to obtain authority to distribute the assets to those entitled to receive them.


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Wills

When a person passes away, if he or she left a will, the will must be filed with the court within 30 days after the death (external site ). There is a $50 fee to deposit the will. A copy of the will must be mailed to the executor. If you do not have the executor’s address, you can instead mail a copy to one of the persons named in the will who is to receive property or money.


Available Procedures

Procedure Name Max Gross Value Wait Per. After Death Real Prop. Only Pers. Prop. Only Real & Pers. Prop.
Court Procedures
Pet. for Probate (pdf ) Any None X X X
Spousal Property Petition* (external site pdf ) Any None X X X
Petition to Determine Succession (external site pdf ) $150K 40 days X X
Affidavit re: Real Property of Small Value (external site pdf ) $50K 6 mon X
Non Court Procedures
Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (pdf ) $150K 40 days X
Transfer of Mobilehome (HCD) (DMV) (Property Tax) (external site ) Any 40 days X**
Transfer of Vehicle / Vessel (external site pdf ) Any 40 days X***

*Can only be used for property passing to a spouse or registered domestic partner.

**Only available for manufactured home, mobilehome, commercial coach, truck camper, or floating home registered with the Department of Housing and Community Development.

***Only available for vehicles and vessels registered with the DMV.


Decedent's Estate Administration

The most formal process is referred to as a "decedent's estate administration." This procedure requires an individual to petition the court to be appointed as personal representative of the estate. If the court finds that the decedent left a valid will, the court will issue "letters testamentary" or "letters of administration with will annexed" to the personal representative. If no will is admitted to probate, the court will issue "letters of administration."


Summary Proceedings

In some cases, you may be able to use a less formal "summary" procedure. Summary procedures are often used when there are few assets, no known debts, and all of the persons entitled to receive the assets are able to sign all the required paperwork. These procedures are only available for specific types of assets, and only when no decedent’s estate administration has been opened or the court-appointed personal representative has consented to use the summary procedure. 

Court Procedures

There are three summary procedures available through the court. If the party to receive some or all of the assets is a spouse or registered domestic partner, he or she can file a spousal property petition (external site pdf ) with the court to obtain a court order to receive his or her share of those assets. If the gross value of the assets of the estate, other than mobile homes and vehicles or vessels, is less than $150,000 and one of the assets is a parcel of real property, you can use a Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property (external site pdf ). If the gross value of all California parcels of real property is less than $50,000, you can use an Affidavit re: Real Property of Small Value (external site pdf ).

Procedures Outside of Court

There are three summary procedures that do not require any paperwork to be filed with the court. If the assets other than mobile homes and vehicles or vessels are only personal property and the total value is less than $150,000, you can use an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (pdf ). For mobilehomes, you can use the form provided by the Department of Housing and Community Development (external site ). For vehicles or vessels, you can use the form provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles (external site pdf ).


Where Can I Get Help on Wills, Estates, and Trust Matters?

What Are Probate Notes and Why They Are Important to Your Case?

How to Contact a Probate Examiner Regarding Probate Notes

After reviewing the probate notes on the website, you may email a probate examiner. (Email is checked daily and you should receive a response within 24 hours)

However, keep in mind the examiner may only answer procedural questions. Examiners may not give legal advice or advise you how to handle your matter.

 Email a Probate Examiner relating to Probate Notes

How to Contact a Probate Examiner Regarding Probate Notes

After reviewing the probate notes on the website, you may email a probate examiner. (Email is checked daily and you should receive a response within 24 hours)

However, keep in mind the examiner may only speak with you regarding procedure. Examiners may not give legal advice or advise you how to handle your matter.

 Email a Probate Examiner relating to Probate Notes