When a death occurs, an heir or family member may have the need to handle the post death transfer of a variety of different assets with just a small amount of legal support; this falls under Small Estate administration. This process can usually be accomplished in the span of a month and may include help with: a life insurance claim, termination of joint tenancy in real property and bank accounts, closing safe deposit boxes, claiming beneficiary designated retirement and brokerage accounts, or claiming “unclaimed” property held by a county or state agency.
There are two basic tools used in Small Estate administration. One is an unrecorded declaration of transfer; the other is a recorded affidavit. For both, many institutions expect claimants to prepare and support their own materials although in some cases, the institution holding the asset may provide their own form and assistance in completing them.
When a joint tenant owning real property dies, the recorded affidavit effectively transfers the entire interest in the property to the surviving joint tenant or tenants. Because this transaction has many legal and tax consequences, affidavit preparation and recordation is generally best done by a lawyer specializing in estates or trained real estate professionals.
In those cases where the asset involved is in the decedent’s name alone and does not exceed $150,000 in value, a declaration for transfer is needed. This method is specifically authorized by California Probate Code. Many of our clients needing one or more Small Estate transfers find it cost effective for our firm to prepare this declaration and any attachments, and then to submit it to the institution involved with an explanatory cover letter.
Our firm ordinarily processes Small Estate transfer at legal assistant rates, rather than attorney rates, and provides a significant savings to the client.
The Law Office of Harcourt Hervey is a boutique law firm specializing in trust, probate and small estate administration. Backed by his experienced and responsive staff, attorney Harcourt Hervey and his staff deliver personalized service, caring support, and up-to-date documentation for individuals and families who need help with both pre-death and post-death estate administration problems. With over 40 years of experience as a trust and probate attorney, Hark Hervey is well known and respected throughout Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley for his legal work and innovative and compassionate approach to the practice of estate law.