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  • One underrated method of estate planning is the use of deeds and gifts during your lifetime to pass on your assets.

  • Gifts of real property or even personal property are a great method of estate planning that could potentially keep your estate out of probate.

  • One drawback is that certain gifts may trigger the Federal Gift Tax.

Types of Deeds

Quitclaim Deeds 

  • Quitclaim deeds are simple deeds that can transfer your legal interest in real property to your chosen grantee.

  • They can be used to make a gift of real property during your lifetime.

  • They can also be used to transfer your real property into your trust.

​Transfer on Death Deeds (TOD)​

  • Transfer on Death Deeds are a special, revocable deed recognized in some states, including California. 

  • These deeds do not transfer your interest in a piece of real property during your lifetime, instead they only take effect upon your death.

  • When you die, these deeds automatically transfer your legal interest in the real property to your chosen beneficiaries. 

  • These deeds are recorded during your lifetime (they must be recorded within 60-days of being signed).

  • They are fully revocable.

  • There are some notice requirements your beneficiaries must follow once the deed has taken effect.

Life Estates

  • Life estates are a method of preserving the use and benefit of a certain piece of real property for a specific individual typically set to the length of their lifetime.

  • After the end of the lifetime, the full interest in the real property passes to the named individual or individuals who hold the remainder. 

  • Life estates are created by a deed with specific language.

  • They are a useful estate planning mechanism in that they allow a grantor to potentially grant themselves a life estate and retain the benefit of the real property for their life, and to chose who shall receive the remainder. 

  • Life estates are another method to avoid the probate of real property

Joint Tenancy with a Right of Survivorship

  • A joint tenancy with a right of survivorship is a special status of ownership created by joint owners that when one joint owner dies, the surviving joint owner automatically receives the deceased owners full share.

  • This status is often used for real property, but can even be used with personal property.

  • These deeds are another mechanism to avoid the probate of real property.

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