Effective 1/1/2012, Califorina's small estate limit is increased from $100,000 to $150,000, meaning that, where the decedent has a will or died intestate (without a will), and the gross value of the estate is $150,000 or less, and does not include real property (real estate), a simplified affadavit procedure may be utilized instead of a full probate.
The limit for transferring real property withour probate increases to $50,000 - likely making little difference in most instances in Los Angeles County, but possiby of some occasional application with regard to unimproved land and timeshares.
Under the new law, a surviving spouse may also collect up to $15,000 in wages owed to his or her deceased spouse without a formal probate proceeding.
Note that assets held in a living trust avoid the time and expense of probate, and that the value of the estate is calculated without regard to any mortgages or other indebtedness. For example, a $450,000 market value house with a $400,000 mortgage counts as $450,000 of estate value, and therefore would not qualify for the small estate procedure.