Real Property Transfers After Death and The Tax Assessor’s Office

It sometimes seems that the real estate transfer forms which are required in a California probate do not work together. This is true. There are multiple systems working together and thus problems persist. You have the Courts, the assessor’s office, and the recorder’s office. Let me explain each one:

STEP ONE: The Inventory and Appraisal form (California form DE-160) is required to be filed within 4 months of letters issuing (Probate code 8800).  On that inventory it states that you HAVE notified the county, where any real estate was owned by the decedent, that the decedent died.

STEP TWO: Pursuant to step one we have to notify the county of death. That is done by filing an Estate Change in Ownership form (available on county assessor websites throughout California). This form indicates who the anticipated recipients are of the real estate. This of course is not always known.

STEP THREE: In response to receiving the Estate Change in Ownership form the county assessor’s office will likely generate a Parent to Child Exclusion form (available on county assessor websites throughout California – BOE-58). It technically needs to be filed within 3 years of death (and also BEFORE ANY SALE TAKES PLACE) but the county assessor usually requires it within 2 weeks and will re-assess if not received. The problem is that supporting documents are supposed to be filed with the Parent to Child form but we won’t have those until the probate is over.

STEP FOUR:After a petition is filed to end the probate a Court Order is received which distributes the property. The Court Order says who receives the real estate. It may be different than indicated above because things can change. If that happens you should do an “amended” Parent to Child Exclusion form.  The Court Order is recorded in the county Recorder’s office.  The Court Order should plainly spell out the address, APN number and legal description of the property. Also, the Court Order should plainly indicate who is to receive that property.

STEP FIVE: With the recording of the Court Order you should also send in a Preliminary Change of Ownership form. The “PCOR” is available on most county assessor websites in California. It’s important to file this, even if not technically required,” because it’s the tax assessor who sends out tax bills. If they don’t update their records a problem can ensue with a confused “ownership” of the property.

STEP SIX: The final, and optional, step is to record an Executor’s Deed. This just repeats what the Court Order says but sometimes is easier to get the legal “ownership” records changed.

If you have questions about any of the above let me know!

-John B. Palley