Self Help

Small Estates & Probate Alternatives

When someone who lived in California 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.

CLICK 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.

How Do I Learn More About This?

See below for the announcement of our upcoming free Small Estate Probate Workshop.  If you want to register, CLICK HERE.


Below is a video of a workshop on Simplified Probate Procedures presented by local probate attorney Diane Dodds, recorded February 15, 2022 to reflect the new location of the probate department and the contact information for the Kern County Probate Referee.

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.

Before you begin, download this packet of Supplemental Documents for Summary Probate PresentationYou will not need all of these documents – only some of the documents should be necessary in your case.


Get In touch

More Information


Monday - Thursday:

Location and Phone

1415 Truxtun Ave, Rm. 301 Bakersfield, CA 93301 (661) 868-5320

Available Services

Including library services & resources availble for use

Information and Guidance

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