Not every estate needs to go through a lengthy probate process. If an estate is valued at a small enough amount, California residents who are heirs or beneficiaries can inherit the property or assets of a deceased relative by filing a small estate affidavit for personal property directly with the entity holding the asset, such as a bank. Employing this method is not only faster than going through probate, it also costs heirs/beneficiaries less money.

SFGate explains how small estate affidavits work in the state of California. Assuming an estate qualifies under law, a person can obtain an affidavit form, sign it, and file it with the appropriate entity holding the asset. Small estate affidavits include the name of the decedent and the value and expenses of the estate. In addition, the heir/beneficiary should produce a copy of the death certificate of the decedent, which will show the entity that the person who owned the estate is now deceased.  If the decedent left a will, a copy of the will should also be attached to the affidavit.

The value of the estate is a vital qualification. If the estate is valued too high, it will not qualify for a small estate affidavit. The SFGate article advises people to examine the stipulations for a small estate provided by their local court. According to the California Courts website, the state standard for possibly qualifying an estate for a non-probate transfer is a total estate value of $150,000 or less of personal property that is not otherwise disposed of by means such as a trust, joint tenancy ownership, or beneficiary designation.

Also, filling out and signing an affidavit is making a statement under penalty of perjury, which can expose a person to legal consequences if the information presented is not accurate. Just as with ordinary probate, gaining the advice of a probate attorney can be an essential step to making the inheritance process work.