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Simple “Death Deeds” Law Problematic

Posted on: July 22nd, 2016
January 1, 2016, California signed into law Assembly Bill 139, which was intended to allow individual homeowners to transfer their real estate when they die outside of a will and without going through probate. The property owner simply fills out a new form and records it. Actual ownership of the real estate noted is not transferred until death.

The bill is supposed to allow someone to retain ownership and control of his or her real estate until death, but to designate who will receive the property at the end of the owner’s life. While alive, the transferor may sell, mortgage or rent their real estate asset without concern to beneficiaries named in the transfer form. The owner can also revoke the transfer while alive.

This all sounds great. However, the law and the new form — SIMPLE Revocable Transfer on Death (TOD) Deed — is anything but simple. In fact, the ambiguously written, 24-page TOD law will complicate the process, assure the need of attorney advice, and could make many elders more susceptible to undue influence and abuse by beneficiaries or caretakers. 

These “Death Deeds” are also subject to estate recovery for low-income elders, who may need Medi-Cal assistance. Your beneficiaries may receive your property, but will receive it subject to all of your debts.   

At Terri Hilliard, PC, we can help navigate this ill-conceived law and protect your estate. Further, if your organization or business would like us to speak to your group on this important subject, please give me a call at 805-201-2552 or e-mail thilliard@terrihilliard.com.  
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