Self Help

Small Estates & Probate Alternatives

When a California resident dies, there are two primary ways the assets in their estate can be distributed.


One way is what is known as “full” or “formal” probate – this is often appropriate where the estate was of a high value, or if there is a disagreement over who should inherit what.


The other way is known as “summary,” or simplified probate – this is for estates where the only person set to inherit property is the spouse, or for estates of small value where everyone is in agreement over who should inherit the property.


The information on this page is only about simplified probate and probate alternatives, not full probate.

How Do I Learn More About This?

You can start by CLICKING HERE to read a brief article on the Judicial Branch website that describes what kinds of estates are likely to require formal probate, and which may qualify for simplified probate.



Below is a video of a workshop on Simplified Probate Procedures presented by local probate attorney Diane Dodds, recorded August 2023 to reflect the new legislative updates adjusting the estate values that may qualify for these procedures.

Ms. Dodds generously volunteers her time to provide monthly workshops on this subject, but if you are unable to attend, please check out her video here.  If you watch it on YouTube, it has timestamps in the description that allow you to skip easily to parts of the video that are relevant to your case.

During the video, Ms. Dodds mentions a packet of documents that go along with the video.

CLICK HERE so you can download the forms that you will need for this process.  Not all of the forms will apply in your case, but if these procedures are right for you, some will.


Get In touch

More Information


Monday - Thursday:
1-3:30 available by appointment only

Location and Phone

1415 Truxtun Ave, Rm. 301 Bakersfield, CA 93301 (661) 610-6325

Available Services

Including library services & resources availble for use

Information and Guidance

For example, which forms to complete and how to file them.