Q&A: Getting a small estate transferred

Dear Liz: My brother passed away three years ago leaving no will. All of his bills have been paid. I am unable to transfer his stocks and retirement account to my name. I have repeatedly checked the unclaimed properties list to no avail. No probate was required because the estate was too small. Will you please assist me with the steps I need to file to make this transaction occur?

Answer: Each state has its own laws for small estates and how to transfer assets, said Jennifer Sawday, an estate planning attorney in Long Beach.

In California, for example, a small estate is one with $166,250 or less in assets. If your brother’s estate was under this amount, you can complete a form that’s commonly referred to as a small estate affidavit and present it to the financial institutions or a stock transfer agent to start the transfer process. You can search online for a sample form or ask an attorney for help.

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