Estate Planning Blog

New Form: Revocable Transfer on Death Deed

Written on: February 7th, 2017

Wrongful Death| Personal Injury| Thomas Hogan Law OfficeA new form of statutory deed entitled Revocable Transfer on Death Deed (TOD) has been established by the legislature. A TOD deed is a non-probate deed whereby the homeowner may deed his or her home to a name beneficiary and the transfer becomes operative on the homeowner’s death, but will remain revocable until he or she dies.

Why is this of importance to seniors? The TOD was created to allow single seniors or widows to escape probate without the need to draft a trust. Some parents add their children on the deed to the home as joint tenants for the sole purpose of avoiding probate. The problem with doing this is that the children immediately own part of the house, which may subject the house to the children’s creditors.

The beneficiary of a TOD effectuates the transfer when the homeowner dies by recording an affidavit of the transferor’s death certificate and also notifies Medi-Cal of the death.

This new law tries to combat elderly financial abuse by adding a 120 day rule and revocability of the deed. So that if you find out that Mother has transferred her home to her new boyfriend using a TOD deed and Mother is alive, you can simply have mom revoke it. But is mom is dead, you have 120 days to file a lawsuit against the boyfriend and record a lis pendens on the property so that new boyfriend is not able to sell the home.

One catch, If the beneficiary listed on the TOD deed dies before the granter, then the TOD deed is worthless and the property would be probated.

Also, one of the major disadvantages of the TOD deed is that the home will be subject to Medi-Cal recovery. While the legislature intended this new law to help low income seniors who can not afford to pay the legal fees required to draft estate planning documents, it is the low income seniors who are most likely to use Medi-Cal and perhaps lose their homes to a Medi-Cal lien.

As to married people, the best way to avoid probate on a home is to hold title as joint tenants or community property with right of survivor.

So while the TOD deed provides a possible solution for estate planning purposes for low income seniors, it leaves them open to folks who can and will commit fraud and abuse against the elderly. So please use this tool wisely.

The Law Office of Thomas Hogan is an Estate Planning specialist who is prepared to help in your time of need. Feel free to contact us if you are in need of help with Wills, TOD, or Estate Planning in Modesto CA. Call (209) 214-6600 to speak with our Modesto California Attorneys.

A common situation that comes up during a dissolution matter is dividing the equity in a house that was owned by one spouse prior to marriage. In most cases the non-owning spouse is entitled to receive a portion of the equity in the house. The general rule in California dissolutions is that all community property (property from the marriage) is to be divided equally. The complication in this situation is that at part of the loan was paid outside of the marriage and part was paid during the marriage. To make matters even more complicated, the value of homes generally fluctuate constantly throughout the parties marriage and the divorce process.

 

Two California cases (In Re Marriage of Moore and In Re Marriage of Marsden) have established a method for dealing with these issues. Simply put, the portion of the equity of the house which came from the marriage will be split equally and the portion of equity from before or after marriage belongs to the spouse who owns the property. To determine the correct apportionment of these two, the courts look to the value and loan balance at four different dates: (1) Date of Purchase, (2) Date of Marriage, (3) Date of Separation, and (4) Date of Trial. With this information correct percentage and values owed to each spouse can be determined.

 

Generally, the assistance of a real estate appraiser is required to determine these values. Further, close examination of the loan documentation is also required. If the house has been re-financed at any point in time, additional information and documentation has to be reviewed. In many cases, the parties can hire an agreed appraiser to determine these values and can agree to a fair buyout amount. In other cases the value may be contested and it may be necessary to have the court decide this value. Either way, it is important when dealing with this issue to contact a skilled attorney to assist you in navigating this complicated claim. You may contact our office to discuss this issue further with one of our attorneys.

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