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Which Assets Go Through California Probate and Which Do Not?

Which Assets Go Through California Probate?

When the personal representative prepares a Schedule of Assets. This is a complete list of all the decedent’s property, he or she indicates the value of each item and the type and share of ownership. This serves as the foundation of the process to distribute the estate to heirs and beneficiaries. The personal representative must also identify the way the assets transfer under California probate law. There are three possibilities:

  • Property not subjected to probate.  Assets are independent from the dispositions of a will.  If assets are entitled to a determined beneficiary then they don’t have to go through probate . This includes life insurance proceeds, death benefits, and assets held in trust or in joint tenancy.
  • Property subject to “summary” probate. This principally concerns property transferred automatically to a surviving spouse or domestic partner or assets that, taken as a whole, are valued within the limits of a “Small Estate.” The summary probate procedure is in fact so simple that these assets can be considered as “non-probate.”
  • Property subjected to formal (court) probate. This category includes anything that does not fall in the former two categories.


To establish the nature and value of the decedent’s estate, one should only consider the gross value. (i.e., the value of each item without regard to the amount owed to third parties.) For example, the market value of a house at the time of the decedent’s death would be considered without subtracting the balance owed to the mortgage loan institution.
When preparing the Schedule of Assets, the executor or administrator will have to list per property item the debts and obligations owed to third parties. This will be very useful at various later stages of the probate or transfer process.
Talk to San Diego estate planning and probate attorney Scott Grossman about your situation and the questions you have. Call our lawyers at (951) 683-3704 or (888) 443-6590 for your FREE 30-minute telephone consultation. Also, order our FREE book The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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