On top of the grief that comes with losing a loved one in Los Angeles, you may also be confronted with the need to settle the affairs of his or her estate. You have probably been told that having an estate go through probate is a long, drawn-out process that can take a heavy financial toll on its assets. Yet before you begin to stress about having to go through all this, you should first understand that not all estates need to be probated.
The primary purpose of the probate process is to ensure that an estate is managed correctly. Yet for those estates that do not have significant assets or properties, the supervision of the probate court may not be needed. Indeed, California's Probate Code offers a way for those party to small estates to skip the probate process altogether.
According to Section 13100 of the Probate Code, as long your loved one has been deceased for at least 40 days (and the total value of his or her estate does not exceed $150,000), you and other heirs and beneficiaries of the estate may begin to collect assets due to the decedent and receive any of the tangible estate property you are entitled to. To do so, you need to present (in writing) an affidavit to the holder of the decedent's property stating (among other things) your claim to the property (as outlined by the decedent in his or her estate planning documents), and that the personal representative of the estate has authorized you in this action.
You should know that the property eligible for consideration towards the $150,000 valuation of the estate is limited to real property (valued up to $50,000), bank accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks, bonds and mutual funds, as well as other investment accounts.