An estate of less than $100,000 which doesn’t include real property (real estate) can be done as a mini-probate. According to attorney’s we are familiar with, it simply needs an affidavit of death, and a declaration with a description of the assets.
A Probate proceeding is necessary whenever a decease person has left assets which have not been placed in a trust or a joint tenancy before death. An estate value of less than $100,000 doesn’t have to go through a full probate proceeding. Also if the real estate is under $100,000 there is a special "small estates" procedure that heirs can use under California probate code section 13151. A full probate can take seven months or more and use up capital in legal fees, and court costs. A small probate would take two months and can be done for $1500 to $2500 with most attorneys in California. It can be a little different when assets include real estate.
In Real Estate Probate, If the property is appraised as having a value of less than $20,000 it can be taken by affidavit, which can even be done without an attorney. However, as recommended by attorneys, if the estate is worth less than $100,000 and the real property is worth more than $20,000, you will need to petition the court. If you choose to tackle a probate on your own in order to save the $1500 to $2500 legal and court fees then you may need to get into some reading such as How to Probate an Estate in California by Julia Nissley. It does come recommended via online book stores. Typically asking questions of court clerks will likely get a reply of “I can’t tell you, I am not the Judge”. Also, forget about seeing the judge.
You can likely save yourself anguish and heartache by seeking the advice of an attorney, so you essentially get a third party to handle your family affairs. We do recommend that you handle the probate as soon as possible. If you wait until you get an offer on your property it will takes months to complete the probate and the buyer may move onto other opportunities.