As you know, whenever the first of January arrives, new laws take effect in California. This year my AB 139, a measure that established a new estate-planning tool, finally went into effect, giving homeowners the ability to transfer their home with a simple form. Reformers had tried to pass this historic legislation for 10 years, failing until my AB 139.
Before now, middle-class Californians had two costly options to transfer the title of their home upon death: hire an attorney to draft a trust (which typically costs homeowners between $2,000 and $6,000) or force surviving loved ones to weather the lengthy, delay-filled probate process (with an average cost of $26,000).
I’ve always felt that one of the primary roles of the legislature should be to simplify life for Californians. AB 139 will do that, by helping homeowners avoid costly probate and attorneys’ fees and unintended burdens on family members. It’s also important for us to operate under the rules we propose, so I wanted to show everyone how easy and secure this process is by signing deeds for my own homes this month.
Supporters of my bill, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, expressed their enthusiasm for the availability of the new tool, noting that these new “Easy Estate Planning” deeds will grant all Californians the opportunity to use an inexpensive tool to pass their home to a loved one.
Most counties were quick to make the forms available on their websites.
After notarization of the form, Californians can simply mail the deed to their local County Recorder’s office, pay a small fee, and file the form. The average such fee, $25, pales in comparison to the lawyers’ fees involved for previous methods.
To easily download a Revocable Transfer on Death deed form, please visit Tinyurl.com/SimpleDeed.
Mike Gatto is the chairman of the Utilities & Commerce Committee and the longest-serving current member of the State Assembly. He represents California’s 43rd Assembly District, which includes Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto