WordPress The California Probate Code provides that probate estates of $100,000 or less do not need to be probated. In some cases, the total estate may be well in excess of $100,000, but the small estate law can still be used. The reason is that many assets are not defined as probate assets, such as life insurance (unless it was payable to the estate), IRAs, 401Ks, assets held by a living trust, and joint tenancy assets. The $100,000 amount is calculated by totaling all of the probate assets owned by the decedent.
Estates valued at less than $100,000 worth of probate assets are administered by preparing affidavits which are presented to the various institutions (banks, brokerages, etc.) that hold the assets. The assets are then turned over to the person named as executor in the will, and distributed according to the will. If there is no will, the assets are distributed according to the rules of intestate succession (in other words, to the nearest relatives of the deceased.)