Probate in California can be expensive and time-consuming. But if an estate is of relatively modest size, a full estate administration proceeding may not be required. Under California's Probate Code, simplified proceedings are available for smaller estates.
If the total value of the estate, including real and personal property, is not more than $150,000, persons entitled to inherit real property can file a Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property in the probate court for the county where the decedent resided. If the decedent resided out of state, the petition should be filed in the county where the real property is located. The petitioners must wait until 40 days after the decedent's death to file the petition. The court will schedule a hearing to determine if the petitioners are entitled to receive the property.
Persons entitled to inherit personal property can file an Affidavit for Collection or Transfer of Personal Property, as long as the total value of both real and personal property in the estate is $150,000 or less. All persons entitled to inherit the personal property must sign the affidavit, and it must be notarized. It can be filed once 40 days have passed since the decedent's death. There is no court hearing under this procedure. This procedure cannot be used to transfer real property.
Finally, if the estate consists of real property worth $50,000 or less, those entitled to receive the property can file an "Affidavit re: Real Property of Small Value". The Affidavit must be filed not less than six months after the death. This procedure does not require a court hearing.
These procedures cannot be used if an estate administration proceeding has been commenced in the probate court, unless the decedent's personal representative has consented to the use of the specific procedure.
Source: California Legislature, "Probate Code §§ 13150 - 13158," accessed Feb. 4, 2017