Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Jan 6, 2020

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

If you’re looking to bypass the California probate courts, you may be in luck if the decedent’s estate is worth $20,000 or less (not counting property that does not go through probate, such as a home or car jointly owned by the decedent’s spouse). In order to distribute such an estate without going through California probate, request that the court set aside the estate for distribution to the spouse or minor children. In addition, an heir to real property (buildings or land) contained in an under-$20,000 estate can file a DE-305 Affidavit re Real Property of Small Value if no probate process is pending.

Estates worth $100,000 or less can also be distributed independently of the California probate system; personal property from such estates can be distributed by filing a declaration in a Section 13100 procedure. Check with your local Superior Court for the proper form. As an example, the San Diego forms are available here. After waiting 40 days, heirs can collect personal items such as clothing, cars, and furniture. However, buildings and land (real property) in estates that exceed $100,000 in value cannot bypass the probate system by declaration; they require more complex filings that may necessitate hiring a California probate lawyer. For more information, check out our article on the Basics of California Probate.