California Small Estate Affidavit

Estate planning is a crucial part of financial planning, but it can be complicated. Often, assets cannot be protected in probate. However, they can still be transferred to the deceased’s beneficiaries using a small estate affidavit, avoiding the probate process. There are several pitfalls to watch out for when using a small estate affidavit, as these can delay or prevent the transfer of assets to beneficiaries.

Requirements for Using a California Small Estate Affidavit

To use a California small estate affidavit, the following conditions must be met:

  1. The deceased’s estate must be valued at $184,500 or less (if the death occurred after April 1, 2022).
  2. The estate must not include any real property.
  3. At least 40 days must have passed since the deceased’s death.
  4. No probate proceedings should be pending for the estate.
  5. The affiant must be an heir of the deceased.
  6. No other person should have a superior claim to the deceased’s property.

Completing the Affidavit

The affidavit must be filled out accurately and completely. It is crucial to include all required information, such as:

  • The deceased’s full name and date of death.
  • The names and addresses of all beneficiaries.
  • A detailed inventory of the estate’s assets, including their value at the date of death.

Supporting Documents

In addition to the affidavit, beneficiaries must provide the following documents:

  • The deceased’s death certificate.
  • A copy of the deceased’s will (if available).

Submitting the Affidavit

The California small estate affidavit must be submitted to the holder of the asset the person is attempting to collect. For financial accounts, this means submitting the affidavit to the bank or financial institution. For vehicles and vessels, the DMV provides a small estate affidavit form on its website to transfer ownership.

Common Mistakes

Some common mistakes people make when using a California small estate affidavit include:

  1. Not Meeting Eligibility Requirements: Ensure all eligibility requirements are met before submitting the affidavit. Consult an estate attorney if unsure.
  2. Incorrectly Completing the Affidavit: The affidavit must be accurate and complete. Errors or omissions can delay or prevent the asset transfer.
  3. Failing to Provide All Necessary Documents: Collect and submit all required documents, including the death certificate and the deceased’s will (if available).

How a Tax Attorney Can Help

A tax attorney can assist by:

  • Reviewing the estate to determine eligibility for using a small estate affidavit.
  • Helping prepare the affidavit to ensure accuracy and completeness.
  • Reviewing all necessary documents.
  • Submitting the affidavit to the appropriate entity.

Consulting an experienced estate attorney is strongly recommended when considering using a California small estate affidavit.


A California small estate affidavit can be a valuable tool for beneficiaries of small estates. However, it is crucial to ensure the documents are accurate and complete to avoid delays or prevent the transfer of assets.

Additional Tips

Some additional tips to avoid mistakes include:

  • Understanding all requirements for using a small estate affidavit.
  • Gathering all necessary documents before beginning the process.
  • Having someone else review your affidavit before submission.
  • Consulting an estate attorney if you have any questions.

By following these tips, you can avoid errors and ensure a smooth and effective transfer of assets from the deceased’s estate to the beneficiaries.

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