Gov. Brown signs bill to make home transfers easier after death

Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. On Monday, Brown signed a bill, introduced by local Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), that simplifies the process of transferring real-property assets upon death.

(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Monday, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), that will create a “Revocable Transfer on Death Deed,” which could save millions of households from paying probate and attorney’s fees.

AB 139 — which will take effect Jan. 1, 2016 — simplifies the way Californians transfer real-property assets upon death through use of a simple form. The legislation will be the most affordable alternative available to hiring an estate-planning attorney or facing the daunting and bureaucratic probate process, Gatto said.

“One of the primary roles of the legislature should be to simplify life for Californians,” said Gatto in a statement. “By helping homeowners avoid costly probate fees and unintended burdens on family members, AB 139 will do just that.”

In California, to pass the contents almost any asset — a bank account, a multi-million-dollar stock account, a car of any value — upon death, all an individual needs to do is fill out a simple “Payable On Death” form, said Gatto, who is chairman of the Consumer Protection and Privacy Committee in the Assembly.


However, for most middle-class Californians, there is no easy way to transfer the title for a house. Gatto said homeowners currently face two costly options: hire an attorney to draft a trust, which typically costs homeowners between $2,000 and $6,000, or surviving loved ones have to deal with the probate process, with an average cost of $26,000.

Gatto said more than 25 other states allow use of this tool. The measure had been introduced into the California state legislature four times in the last 10 years, but AB 139 marks the first time the bill has been passed, Gatto added.