Property Tax Exclusion

Dear Len & Rosie,

My mother passed away at the age of 91. Her home has her name and my name as tenants in common with full rights of survivorship. We have lived in this home together. It was the home where I was raised. We all had a wonderful relationship together. Should I remove her name from the property tax bill and have my name added? Will my taxes go up? It has been a long year missing my mother and I suppose it is now time to find out what I should do with the name change on the property tax bill and deed.


Dear Therese,

You shouldn’t have to worry about property tax. Under Proposition 58, your mother may transfer to her children her home and up to $1,000,000 of other real property in California without triggering a property tax reassessment. If you reside in your mother’s home, your property tax won’t be any different from what it was before your mother’s death.

In order to avoid reassessment, you will have to submit to the County Assessor a form called “Claim for Reassessment Exclusion for Transfer Between Parent and Child.”  If the Assessor is notified of your mother’s death by the vital statistics office that issues death certificates, they will usually mail the form to you.

The bad news is that your description of the state of title to your mother’s property, “tenants in common with full rights of survivorship” doesn’t make sense. Unmarried persons owning property together may own it in two ways, either in joint tenancy, which has a right of survivorship, or in tenancy in common, which does not. If your deed really says “as joint tenants with right of survivorship” then all you need to do to remove your mother’s name from the property is to record your mother’s death certificate attached to an affidavit of death at the County Recorder’s office, together with the appropriate property tax forms.

But if the title to the property is held as “tenants in common”, then your mother’s half of the home belongs to her probate estate and is subject to probate. You’ll have to hire a lawyer, which will cost much more money than merely recording an affidavit of death. There could be other complications as well, if you are not the only child and your mother didn’t make a will leaving you her estate, or at least her home.

Problems like this tend to happen when people do their own legal work. It’s certainly possible to prepare your own deeds, wills, and even trusts, but it’s very easy to make mistakes. It’s not just filling out forms. You need to see a lawyer to review your mother’s deed and determine what you need to do to clear title to the property.

Len & Rosie