Death is inevitable and brings with it a variety of emotions and challenges for those who are left behind. One of the most difficult tasks for family members is transferring a deceased person’s property.

This process can be confusing and emotionally draining, especially if the person did not leave behind a will or other estate planning documents. Equipping yourself with the knowledge to navigate this situation can help your family avoid unnecessary stress and grief during an already difficult time.

This article post will discuss the different types of deeds, common mistakes, and how to simplify the process.

California’s Two Most Common Types of Deeds

A deed is a document that transfers ownership of property, usually real estate. It’s notarized and signed by the seller, who then records it with the county recorder’s office.

The two most common types of deeds in California are grant and quitclaim deeds.

Grant Deed

A grant deed (or special warranty deed) provides two warranties: the grantor has not transferred the property to anyone else, and no title problems arose when the grantor held the title. This type of deed makes no promises regarding potential title claims that occurred before the grantor acquired the title and does not promise to cover any legal costs associated with defending such claims.


In a quitclaim deed, the grantor (the person transferring the interest) relinquishes or “quits” any claim they have to the property in question to the grantee (the person receiving the interest). These deeds are commonly used when transferring property between family members. However, they don’t avoid the probate process after death.

How to Use Deeds to Simplify Property Transfer After Death

In California, property transfer at death must be done through a deed.

When the property owner dies, the deed must be recorded with the county recorder’s office to transfer the property title to the beneficiary. The deed must include the names of the deceased and the beneficiary and a legal description of the property. It must also be signed by the executor of the deceased’s estate and notarized.

The best deed for a quick property transfer after death in California is a Transfer on Death Deed (TODD). A TODD allows a property owner to transfer the property to a designated beneficiary upon death without going through probate. It is a simple and cost-effective way to transfer property after the owner’s death.

However, most estate planning attorneys don’t recommend a TODD as there are many issues that can arise when not completed correctly which could lead to costly court intervention to fix title issues.

Potential Pitfalls of Transfer on Death Deeds

While transfer on death deeds (TOD deeds) can be a convenient way to transfer property to beneficiaries without going through probate, they come with potential pitfalls that individuals should be aware of. It’s essential to understand these issues and weigh the pros and cons before deciding if a TOD deed is the right choice for your estate plan.

  1. Not an Effective Tax Beneficial Tool: One of the common misconceptions is that TOD deeds provide tax benefits. In reality, they do not offer any significant tax advantages. Depending on your specific situation and goals, there may be other estate planning tools that can provide more effective tax benefits.
  2. Removal from Probate Estate Can Cause Liquidity Problems: A TOD designation can remove property from your probate estate, which can lead to liquidity issues. If your estate lacks sufficient liquid assets, your beneficiaries may encounter difficulties covering immediate expenses like debts, taxes, and administrative costs.
  3. Undermining Changes to the Estate Plan: TOD deeds can sometimes conflict with or undermine other elements of your estate plan. If you’ve made prior arrangements for the distribution of a particular property in your will or trust, the TOD deed can supersede these and disrupt your intentions.
  4. Problems in Case of a Predeceased Beneficiary: If one of your designated TOD beneficiaries passes away before you do, it can complicate the distribution of your assets. You may need to update the TOD deed to reflect the change in beneficiaries, which can be a cumbersome process.
  5. Potential Delay in Distribution with Multiple Beneficiaries: If you name multiple beneficiaries in a TOD deed, it can lead to disagreements and delays in the distribution process after your passing. Typically, all beneficiaries are required to submit their individual claim forms before the assets can be distributed. If one or more fail to submit their claim, this can delay the distribution of assets and create tensions and potential disputes between beneficiaries.

It’s crucial to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can assess your specific circumstances and guide you in choosing the most suitable estate planning tools, whether it involves TOD deeds or other methods, to ensure your wishes are carried out effectively and efficiently.

5 Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid When Transferring Property After Death

When it comes to estate planning, it can be easy to make mistakes that can have serious consequences for your family and finances.

Here are the five most common estate planning mistakes you should avoid:


  1. Not creating a plan. One of the most common mistakes is not having an estate plan. Without a comprehensive plan, your heirs won’t receive the full amount of the estate you intended to leave them.
  2. Not considering tax implications. Estate taxes can reduce the amount your heirs receive after death. It is important to consider the tax implications of transferring property after death and to plan accordingly.
  3. Not updating your plan. Many people create an estate plan and never update it. It is important to review your plan periodically to ensure it still reflects your wishes.
  4. Not specifying beneficiaries. Another estate planning mistake is not specifying who should receive the property after your death in your will or trust. If you do not designate beneficiaries, California has an estate plan for you and it may not be what you want.
  5. Not following the law. Each state has estate planning and property transfer laws. It is important to understand the laws in your state and ensure that your plan is compliant.

Hermance Law: California Property Transfer Made Easy.

The best way to quickly transfer property after death in California is to have a valid and up-to-date estate plan.

It is also important to ensure that the property owner has properly executed all documents and that all assets have been properly titled. In addition, you should hire an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that assets are transferred in a timely and efficient manner.

Call Hermance Law today to put your plans in motion.

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