Beginning in 2016, there will be a simple way to keep property transfers by California homeowners out of probate: revocable transfer on death deed. Due to Gov. Jerry Brown's signing Assembly Bill 139 into law, from January 1st of next year, testators will soon have a cheaper option to pass on real estate to their heirs.
According to AB139's author Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, the new law is "a good bill for consumers," especially since it allows for bypassing the probate process, which averages around $26,000. That's a high cost for any normal working household to bear, so the legislation should provide a net positive to ordinary Californians' pocketbooks by helping them conserve estate funds.
Revocable transfer on death deed should prove most advantageous to single people who are looking for a cheaper method of ensuring that loved ones inherit property after their own passing. That also means widows and widowers, a key group that previously hadn't been able to carry out real estate transfers without resorting to formation of a trust, a tried-and-true method that could nonetheless require several thousand dollars in legal fees.
Soon, with the onset of 2016, a homeowner can access an estate document called the Simple Revocable Transfer on Death Deed. It's an easier way to pass on property, and its basics come down to the following:
- Designation of who will inherit the property.
- Notarization of the document within 60 days.
- The deed can be revoked at any time before death should the testator change their mind.
The one major drawback of revocable transfer on death deed, critics note, is its potential usefulness to bad actors who would commit elder abuse. If a financial predator can exercise undue influence on an ailing senior citizen before their death, they could exploit the new law to appropriate a victim's home or other property. Should suspected elder abuse occur, an heir must file a lawsuit within 120 days of the testator's passing in order to prevent sale of the property and bring the matter to court.
Revocable transfer on death deed is already operating in over half the states in America, but in California, it will be a kind of experiment. The law will expire on January 1st, 2021, and depending on its results could be extended as a beneficial measure to state homeowners who want a less complex method for transferring their property without going into probate.