How to List the Title to Real Estate in a California Living Trust

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to List the Title to Real Estate in a California Living Trust

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A living trust is a legal document whereby the creator of the trust, or the grantor, can transfer ownership of certain assets into the trust and then onto beneficiaries without going through probate. Probate, the formal process during which a judge distributes a decedent's estate, can take several years and be quite expensive. As awareness of the drawbacks of the probate process increases, more Californians choose living trusts as their means to pass assets to their beneficiaries.

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Funding a Living Trust

To create a living trust, the grantor must fund it, which simply means transferring the grantor's assets into the trust itself. The grantor names a trustee to manage and distribute property held in trust according to the trust's terms. The trust becomes the owner of any assets transferred into it. If the grantor wishes to convey real estate to their beneficiaries, they must transfer the title into the trust.

How to Transfer Real Estate into a Living Trust

In California, to transfer real property into a living trust, the grantor must fill out a grant deed, the vehicle for transferring ownership of title from the grantor to the trust itself.

Before you begin filling out a grant deed, you will need some information from your current deed—the original document that transferred ownership from someone else to you. The way your name appears as the grantee on the old deed must exactly match the way you enter it as the grantor of the grant deed. Then the legal name of the living trust must appear under the grantee section of the new grant deed. It is imperative to execute this step properly.

In addition, the assessor's parcel number (APN) and legal description from the old deed must appear on the new grant deed.

Reassessment of Property Value in California

Under California law, if the owner of real property transfers that property into a living trust, a county tax assessor may reassess the value of that property upon change of ownership. This could lead to increased property taxes. However, the law exempts the transfer of property into one's own living trust from the definition of change of ownership. Thus, as long as the owner/grantor informs the assessor's office that the exemption applies, there will not be a reassessment of property value.

Executing the Grant Deed

The last step of transferring real estate into a living trust in California is to sign the grant deed in front of a notary. The signature must be exactly the same as it is on the current deed. Although not required, it is highly advised that you officially record the deed with the county recorder's office in the county of the property.

Once you have properly executed and recorded your grant deed, the real estate officially transfers into the trust.

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