As of January 1, 2016, California homeowners no longer need a living trust to pass property outside of probate. The California legislature continues to promote probate avoidance- and last year Governor Brown signed into law the measure which allows homeowners to pass property by a Revocable Transfer on Death Deed.

Basically, it’s going to save some people a lot of money in attorneys fees. Here’s why:

Prior to Transfer on Death (TOD) Deeds being available in California, the only way to pass property outside of probate was by creating a living trust. While a living trust serves many purposes beyond avoiding probate, it can be expensive to create a trust and sometimes, depending on the client’s circumstances, not even necessary.

Now, property owners in California who may not require a living trust have the option of recording a transfer on death deed which will go into effect on their death. The owner of the property may revoke that deed at any time and may leave the property to more than one beneficiary in equal shares. The named beneficiary becomes the legal owner of the property at the owner’s death without the hassle and cost of probate.

Perhaps only a small percentage of property owners will elect to use this estate planning option, but it is an interesting and progressive evolution in the law and estate planners should be discussing this option with their clients. Keep in mind that while TOD deeds are a great new option for probate avoidance, there are still many reasons to have a living trust depending on your circumstances, and you should discuss your needs and goals with an experienced attorney.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.