Property Taxes in California and Proposition 13
Each state in the US has their own individual laws, rules and regulations that govern estate planning, inheritance and taxation. California for instance has several property tax laws that control how much a persons property tax can increase each year and how you can avoid property tax reassessment on an inherited home.
The primary legislation that stabilizes property taxes in California is know as Proposition 13. Proposition 13 provides three functions in property tax assessment.
- All real estate has an established base year value
- A homes assessment can not increase by more than 2% a year
- A homes property tax base can not exceed 1% of the assessed value (plus additional voter-approved taxes)
Additional information on California Proposition 13 can be found on the Santa Clara Assessors Office website located here.
California Proposition 19 and the Exclusion from Reassessment on an Inherited Home
California Proposition 19 went into effect on April 1st, 2021 and replaced the existing legislation that controlled how a person inheriting a home from a parent could avoid property tax reassessment. The previous legislation was known as Proposition 58. With Proposition 19, a few of the rules for obtaining an exclusion from reassessment on an inherited home changed. Previously under California Prop 58, a child inheriting a home from a parent could apply for an exclusion from property tax reassessment with no value limitation, providing that the home they were inheriting was the parents primary residence. Under Proposition 58 you could also transfer the property tax base from a parent to child on an investment property or second home with a 1 million dollar property tax exclusion limit (per parent). Under Proposition 19, there is now a limit of the current taxable value plus $1,000,000 on a home you will use as your primary residence. Prop 19 also eliminated the ability to avoid reassessment on an inherited home that will not be used as your primary residence. You can view addition information on California Proposition 19, on the California Board of Equalization website located here.
In addition to the Proposition 19 and Proposition 58 property tax transfer rules listed above, there are additional requirements when it comes to receiving an exclusion from reassessment on an inherited home in California. For instance, the California Board of Equalization requires that all trust beneficiaries receive an equal share of assets, if language requiring an equal distribution exists in the trust, which it often does. If an equal distribution is required, a loan cannot be made to the trust by any of the beneficiaries who intend on keeping the home. Doing so would be considered a sibling to sibling buyout by the Board of Equalization and result in a disqualification from a full exclusion from reassessment. They view this as a transfer between beneficiaries rather than a transfer from parent to child.
The following is a simplified example of how an equal distribution of trust assets works when a trust loan is involved. Lets assume the only asset in the trust is a home worth $300,000. One of three child beneficiaries wants to keep the home, and the other two would like to receive cash. A loan would need to be made to the trust for $200,000. In this situation the two beneficiaries who did not want the home would each receive their $100,000 as cash and the other child receives the home with $100,000 equity in it. Since each child received a distribution of $100,000 in trust assets, an equal distribution was made. Detailed information on the California Board of Equalizations requirements for equal distributions and other parent to transfer requirements can be found here on the BOE Website.
Trust Loans and Loans to Irrevocable Trusts
A trust loan in a loan to an irrevocable trust that provides enough so that an equal distribution of assets can be made to all beneficiaries. When an irrevocable trust contains insufficient cash assets for an equal distribution to be made, a person will often require the assistance of a specialized lender known as a Trust & Estate Lender. Trust and Estate lenders specialize in making loans to irrevocable trusts and estates that are involved in probate. As documented by the California Board of Equalization, the acquiring beneficiary may not utilize their own funds or make a personal guarantee on the loan. Doing so would create a sibling to sibling buyout, disqualifying them for the full parent to child transfer exclusion. The loan will need to be made directly to the trust (which is usually an irrevocable trust), without first removing the property from the trust or requiring a personal guarantee from the acquiring beneficiary. A conventional lender will almost never lend to an irrevocable trust, and will instead first require that the home is removed from the trust before they will lend to it. Conventional lenders also typically require a personal guarantee from the person taking the loan. An experienced Trust and Estate lender will make a loan directly to the trust, providing enough cash for the equalized distribution to be made with no personal guarantee from the acquiring beneficiary.
A Trust & Estate Lender often works directly with your attorney. A trust loan is typically a short term loan with a term of 6-24 months and does not typically carry a pre-payment penalty. Trust loans usually have higher interest rates than conventional mortgages. Once the inherited home has been transferred from the trust to beneficiary, the loan can be paid off or refinanced into a conventional mortgage. You will want to review all aspects of the transfer with a qualified Trust & Estate Attorney to verify you are doing so in accordance with the California Board of Equalization requirements and that you will be eligible to receive a full exclusion from property tax reassessment on your inherited home. You can learn more about trusts, living trusts and irrevocable trusts here.
Proposition 19 Benefit Calculator for Inherited Properties
You can also use our online Proposition 19 Benefit Calculator to estimate how much you might be able to save by taking advantage of a Proposition 19 Parent-Child Transfer. You can access the Prop 19 Benefit Calculator here.