Summary probate is a simplified probate proceeding to administer the distribution of certain estates. Most states have provisions for summary probate proceedings. Generally, estates under a certain dollar amount and without a personal representative will qualify for summary probate. For example, California Probate Code §§ 7601 and 7660 provide that when no personal representative is appointed to an estate, and the public administrator takes control of the estate, the public administrator may “summarily dispose of the estate.” The value of the property in the estate, however, cannot exceed $50,000, pursuant to California Probate Code § 7660(a)(2).
The surest way for an individual planning their estate to avoid summary probate is to name a personal representative (also referred to as executor) in their will. Drafting a will without naming a personal representative will not necessarily avoid summary probate. For example, California Probate Code § 7660(b) allows the public administrator to summarily dispose of the estate notwithstanding the existence of a will, if the will fails to name an executor.
[Last updated in October of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]