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If your father passed away in CA, you will need to go through the probate court that is in the county he lived in. Each state has different laws for probate, so you can't go through your own state. Depending on the Judge, you may not need to actually attend a hearing in person, however. I would start contacting probate attorneys where your father lived and find out what the Judges there allow. You might be allowed to have a phone hearing, or their might not be the need for a hearing at all.
Well, you would still need to go through the probate court to get your letters, but not necessarily the entire long process of probating the will.
The affidavit tells the court the size of the estate and how it qualifies for the small estate process. The Judge will then sign an order giving you what you need to proceed. This may be called Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. The small estate process is just faster because the estate is smaller. It can also be used when there is no will.
You can also probate the will by going through the full probate process which would also give you Letters Testamentary. If there is no will and the estate is bigger than the small estate process allows, it becomes more complicated.
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