California catches up on revocable transfers on death

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Publication January 5, 2016

On Jan. 1, California played catch-up for a change and joined at least 27 other states that allow a low-cost way of avoiding probate on residential real property. With Assembly Bill 136, the revocable transfer on death (TOD) deed became a new estate-planning tool in California.

Several questions accompany the rise of revocable TOD deeds: Will they be widely used or will their use be limited to residential property owners who have a few other assets at death? Will the advantages — avoiding the time-consuming probate process and attendant attorney fees — outweigh the disadvantages, like the title insurance industry's unease and ambivalence in issuing policies insuring revocable TOD deed transactions? And will those who use TOD deeds be more susceptible to fraud, duress and even "elder abuse," as some opponents maintain?

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