Wills, Estates, & Trusts
Last will and testament

The Will

When a person passes away, if he or she left a will, the will must be filed with the court within 30 days after the death. There is a $50 fee to deposit the will. A copy of the will must be mailed to the executor. If you do not have the executor’s address, you can instead mail a copy to one of the persons named in the will who is to receive property or money.

The Property

If a decedent owned property in his or her name that did not automatically transfer to someone else by means of a beneficiary or pay-on-death designation, joint tenancy, or community property with right of survivorship, some procedure will need to be used to transfer that property to the person legally entitled to receive it. Selecting the most appropriate procedure can be a complicated task. The following information and chart provide a brief summary of some of the features and requirements for many of the procedures. Each of these procedures can be used whether or not the decedent left a will. Many important factors are not addressed in this chart. You should consult with an attorney licensed in the State of California to evaluate which procedure is most appropriate for a situation.

Waiting Period After Death Real Property
Personal Property Only Real and Personal
Court Procedures
Petition for Probate Any None
Spousal Property Petition* Any None
Petition to Determine Succession $150,000 40 days
Affidavit re: Real Property of Small Value $ 50,000 6 months
Non Court Procedures
Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property $150,000 40 days
Transfer of Mobilehome (HCD) (DMV) (Property Tax) Any 40 days
Transfer of Vehicle / Vessel Any 40 days

*Can only be used for property passing to a spouse or registered domestic partner.

**Only available for manufactured home, mobilehome, commercial coach, truck camper, or floating home registered with the Department of Housing and Community Development.

***Only available for vehicles and vessels registered with the DMV.

Decedent's Estate Administration

The most formal process is referred to as a “decedent’s estate administration.” This procedure requires an individual to petition the court to be appointed as personal representative of the estate. If the court finds that the decedent left a valid will, the court will issue “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration with will annexed” to the personal representative. If no will is admitted to probate, the court will issue “letters of administration.”  

Summary Proceedings

In some cases, you may be able to use a less formal “summary” procedure. Summary procedures are often used when there are few assets, no known debts, and all of the persons entitled to receive the assets are able to sign all the required paperwork. These procedures are only available for specific types of assets, and only when no decedent’s estate administration has been opened or the court-appointed personal representative has consented to use the summary procedure. 

Court Procedures

There are three summary procedures available through the court. If the party to receive some or all of the assets is a spouse or registered domestic partner, he or she can file a spousal property petition with the court to obtain a court order to receive his or her share of those assets. If the gross value of the assets of the estate, other than mobile homes and vehicles or vessels, is less than $150,000 and one of the assets is a parcel of real property, you can use a Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property. If the gross value of all California parcels of real property is less than $50,000, you can use an Affidavit re: Real Property of Small Value.

Procedures Outside of Court

There are three summary procedures that do not require any paperwork to be filed with the court. If the assets other than mobile homes and vehicles or vessels are only personal property and the total value is less than $150,000, you can use an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property. For mobilehomes, you can use the form provided by the Department of Housing and Community Development. For vehicles or vessels, you can use the form provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Where Can I Get Help on Wills, Estates, and Trust Matters?

You can contact the Riverside County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service for a low-cost consultation at 951.682.7520, or visit Riverside County Bar Association's website.

You may be eligible for free legal assistance through Riverside Legal Aid's (formerly Public Service Law Corporation) Decedent Clinic. To schedule an appointment call 951.682.7968 (Riverside) or 760.347.9456 (Indio) or online at www.riversidelegalaid.org

For more information regarding Wills, Estates, and Trusts, you can conduct your own research by reviewing several probate practice guides at the Riverside County Law Library, click here.

What Are Probate Notes and Why Are They Important to Your Case?

How to Contact a Probate Examiner Regarding Probate Notes

After reviewing the probate notes on the website, you may email a probate examiner. (Email is checked daily and you should receive a response within 24 hours.)

However, keep in mind the examiner may only answer procedural question.. Examiners may not give legal advice or advise you how to handle your matter.

© 2011 Superior Court of California, County of Riverside