Qualifying for CA Property Tax Measure Proposition 19

California Prop 19 Rules for Transferring Property Taxes

California Prop 19 Rules for Transferring Property Taxes

Background and Updated Details on Proposition 19

Proposition 58 – a wildly popular, successful property tax relief measure since 1986, was a life-saver for middle class homeowners and beneficiaries inheriting property taxes from Mom & Dad; from San Jose all the way to San Francisco and beyond – and was abruptly replaced after a rushed, slightly confusing  PR campaign; with a tax measure called “Proposition 19” – revising Prop 58’s flagship tax break, the “parent-child exclusion”.

Yet Prop 19, true to it’s advertising, added invaluable property tax exemptions for homeowners age 55 and over, for folks with severe disabilities, and victims of natural disasters and forest fires. Giving qualified homeowners the ability to transfer the assessed value of their primary home to a newly purchased or newly constructed replacement “primary residence” up to three times in a lifetime.

For heirs inheriting a home from parents, the bottom line objective for families is property tax transfer – a low property tax base of course; avoiding property tax reassessment; and naturally  the right to transfer parents property taxes and keep parents property taxes, when inheriting a home and inheriting property taxes from Mom & Dad… Having access to a comfortable stress-free parent-child transfer, and a parent-to-child exclusion from having to pay extremely high current property tax rates.  Although nothing is perfect,  California’s property tax relief, as it is now,  gives a foothold to consumer and homeowner  advocates who firmly believe the folks in power should go all the way, to pause CA property taxes to combat Pandemic impact  on the local economy.

Promotion of Proposition 19, albeit slightly misleading, said it all in the title – the “Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act” – more or less replacing the constitutional amendment Proposition 58… However – still maintaining the right to take advantage of a parent-child transfer, inheriting property taxes from Mom & Dad to keep a low property tax base with a parent-to-child exclusion – homeowners are still able to use Proposition 19 in conjunction with a loan to an irrevocable trust, to buyout inherited property shares from beneficiaries, giving inheritors plenty of time, up to 12-months, to move into an inherited primary residence.

Changes to Property Tax Relief Effective 2/16/2021 and 4/1/2021 

  Replacing Proposition 58 (est. 1986) and Proposition 193 (est. 1996) – limiting parent-to-child transfers and grandparent-to-grandchild transfer exemptions (Proposition 193).

  Replacing Proposition 60 (est. 1986) and Proposition 90 (est. 1988) that allowed home transfer exemptions for seniors; and Proposition 110 (est. 1990) allowing exemptions for disabled homeowners.

To qualify for property tax relief, residents have to file a claim with their County Tax Assessor by the time stated in the local county ordinance, or inside 12-months from the date of property damage caused by a natural disaster, a flood, earthquake, whatever – whichever is later. The loss estimate has to be at least $10,000 of current or “fair market” value to qualify for this type of property tax relief. Property taxes are reassessed and adjusted according to the level of damage.

Requirements to Qualify for Proposition 19 Approval

1. Proposition 19 permits property tax decreases by allowing families inheriting real estate to avoid property tax reassessment on a family home used as a principle or primary residence.

2. Only one child (heir) after property is transferred, and both parents before property is transferred over, have to be primary residents of inherited property, with plenty of time (12-months) to move in after the transfer.

3. Proposition 19 allows the transfer of a family home or farm between parents and their offspring, or grandparents and grandkids (as long as both parents are deceased) without triggering “change in ownership” based property reassessment – which is a property tax increase everyone wants to avoid.

At least one beneficiary has to reside in a primary residence, upon the purchase or transfer of a family home between parents and their children, in order to qualify for a property tax exclusion.

It’s worth reiterating that in order to qualify, a beneficiary inheriting real estate must be eligible for the “homeowners’ exemption” or “disabled veterans’ exemption“, applied within 12-months of the transfer or purchase. A parent also has to be eligible for homeowners’ exemption or disabled veterans’ exemption within 12-months of transfer or purchase. Using a home as a primary residence. And can still apply even without one of these exemptions by simply proving the home is a primary residence.  It is important to point out that there is no requirement for a family farm to contain a home that a beneficiary has to reside in.

The Tax Assessor’s Office has a calculator to help homeowners estimate their potential property tax savings from a tax exclusion.  

To Qualify for an Exclusion the sccassessor.org Website States:

The value limit is equal to the home’s taxable value at time of transfer plus $1 million. Any amount of market value exceeding the limit is added to the taxable value for the transferee. Partial relief is granted under the parent child exclusion up to the value limit; with the remainder assessed at market value.

A $1 million allowance will be adjusted annually beginning in 2023.The principal claimant or the claimant’s spouse who resides with the claimant must be at least 55 years of age at the time the original residence is sold. The claimant must be an owner on record of both the original and replacement residences.

Claims must be filed within three years from the date the replacement residence is purchased or newly constructed to receive full relief. Claims filed after the three-year time period will receive Prospective Relief only. Heirs must complete the claim form and meet the exemptions requirement within the first year following the date of transfer.

The exclusion for transfers between grandparents and grandchildren are the same rules as described above except in order to qualify the parents of the grandchild must be deceased. Special rules apply to multi-unit dwellings and mobile homes.

It’s well worth noting that all 58 California counties now have adopted, in accordance with Proposition 19 stipulations, an ordinance for disaster relief, available to owners of real property, business equipment and fixtures, orchards or other agricultural groves, and to owners of aircraft, boats, and certain manufactured homes.  It is not available to property that is not assessable, such as state licensed manufactured homes or household furnishings.

Leaving Heirs Property & Assets in a Trust to Avoid Sibling Conflict

Conflict Among Heirs Inheriting Assets

Squabbling among siblings frequently erupts right after a parent passes away… when the time comes to divvy up real property shares, investment and liquid assets, as well as cash in an estate.  Moreover,  this in-fighting often results in lengthy and expensive litigation.  

Therefore, to set the estate stage properly, to organize the equitable sale of all assets and valuables, to equally split real property, cash accounts, investments, and liquid assets… plus correctly establish productive, two-way communication among siblings prone to conflict and squabbling over money, with an objective, neutral party or familiar family lawyer to act as a mediator to resolve inheritance conflicts among siblings after a decedent has passed away.

However, when middle class parents pass away, leaving a home to several beneficiaries when there is little else to inherit, this frequently results in a heated conflict between one or more siblings who want to sell their inherited home, and the siblings who insist on keeping their family house along with parents’ low property tax base.  As we all know, this can lead to a protracted, bitter battle of wits and words.

An Irrevocable Trust: Working in Conjunction with Proposition 19

The one proven solution to this sort of struggle, to end the squabbling for good, is for one side, generally the beneficiaries looking to keep their inherited home, a loan to a trust to buyout siblings looking to sell their inherited share, buying out sibling property shares, with a sibling to sibling property transfer, avoiding property tax reassessment and keeping a low property tax base. 

Generally a high six-figure or low seven-figure loan from a trust lender to an irrevocable trust works in conjunction with Proposition 19, leaving beneficiaries who are keeping the family house with a Proposition 13 protected, low property tax base. 

This avoids the need to work with a broker or realtor, therefore avoids a 6% commission, legal fees, transaction charges, etc. – providing a good deal more cash to the beneficiaries trying to sell the home than an outside buyer would tend to offer, or could offer.

Resolving Sibling Conflicts with Trust Based Estate Planning

That is to say, thinking ahead to resolve sibling conflicts. Planning an estate with a concrete will and/or trust, with heirs in mind, prior to death can avoid many of the problems between siblings after a surviving parent passes away.

If a parent leaves concrete instructions in a trust and/or a will as to which sibling receives what in terms of cash accounts, real estate, personal property, investments, antiques, lucrative artwork, liquid assets, valuables, important jewelry; etc.

A wise parent will leave clear instructions how a house is to be inherited, or possibly how it is to be sold, and how the proceeds are to be divided. Some siblings may receive more than others; some or one may be disinherited. All of these decisions may result in bitter conflicts later on.

Planning in Advance to Thwart Mercenary Heirs 

Obviously, leaving an even share of assets, valuables, cash, and real property, in black and white,  in a will and/or trust,  would tend to avoid conflict – however this may not be what the decedent wanted.  And even if all inherited assets are split evenly, there are often greedy heirs who want more, and manipulate to get more. And this is where a trust loan buyout can come in handy, with the assistance of a trust lender.

A parent can leave a revocable trust that can be changed at any time up to death, placing property in the joint name of a parent and child so that a bank account, brokerage account, or real estate can pass automatically to children/beneficiaries when the parent dies – to avoid conflict.

Using a cordial executor or trustee for the estate who does not gain anything in any way can also help avoid conflicts, although sometimes they start them! So choosing the right person becomes a critical decision for the parent.

2020-21 Dramatic Changes to California Property Tax Relief

Looking back at surprising 2020—2021 efforts in California to unravel existing middle class utilized Proposition 13 – commercial and residential property tax relief measures. Propaganda from various critics of property tax relief, and sectors of the realtor community, promoted unrealistic property tax measure Proposition 15 – and the attempted removal of tax breaks allowing exclusion from current tax rates for commercial property and business property owners; including middle as well as upper middle class apt building landlords throughout California. They, and Proposition 15, failed by a surprisingly small margin. 

Had Proposition 15 not failed, a property tax hike like Prop 15 would have created a massive statewide increase in prices for all goods and services, all across California, for working families and middle class consumers.  In other words, a tidal wave of statewide inflation. 

Opponents of property tax relief still refuse to admit that higher taxes on commercial property owners and landlords would have forced all business property owners to raise rents on most merchant store tenants – companies leasing malls… on businesses renting gas stations, super markets, drug stores, liquor stores – a tax hike that  would essentially impact all merchants renting space or storefronts,  as well as umpteenth landlords with countless residential tenants and office building owners with countless business tenants.

Quite frankly, voters that bothered to read the fine print under this tax measure found the potential affects of Prop 15 to be unimaginable, hence it did not pass.  It’s unlikely that Prop 19 would have passed had voters not been confused by the heavy promotion focused on “helping elderly homeowners” and “victims of wildfires” etc… or  had voters simply not been lazy, avoiding the complicated fine print concerning inherited homes… it’s quite likely that Proposition 19 may not have been voted into law. 

That, in fact, is what Proposition 15 or any commercial property tax hike would accomplish. So critics of property tax relief should take heed! Massive statewide inflation would occur… causing businesses and merchants to struggle with flagging sales, in response to higher prices, and related issues. Business bankruptcies would increase. And layoffs would most likely rise to excessive numbers.

When so much of your profit margin is going up in smoke, in property taxes, you’re not likely to start hiring more workers. In fact, sadly, you’re more likely to lay some people off. Not to mention the companies that would begin leaving the state altogether, moving to nearby states that offer lower property taxes, are more business friendly in terms of taxation overall, certain property taxes, hence you lose workers and in fact increase unemployment and lose tax revenue from all those folks that are not working.

On the other hand, another property tax measure, Proposition 19, was voted into law in California. Looking beyond the obvious fact that this tax measure somewhat limited the former Prop 58 parent-to-child exclusion (from paying current market rates)…  the property tax transfer process, in other words the ability to transfer parents property taxes and keep parents property taxes without limitations, when inheriting property taxes, a parent to child property tax transfer… all became more limited in terms of what heirs of parents are actually  able to exclude from current tax rates. 

Basically, people now more or less have to work a little harder to be able to avoid property tax reassessment; and it unraveled a loophole which made it easy for the next generation to avoid being reassessed at current market value. Not only that, it’s no longer possible to use Proposition 13’s 2% tax cap when purchasing investment properties, often used as vacation rentals to generate some extra cash from tourists.

However, Prop 19 does make it possible for folks that are over age 55, that are residents with homes damaged or destroyed by natural disasters like floods, earthquakes or wildfires, as well as homeowners that are disabled, to receive excellent property tax breaks. Those Californians can keep their residential property basis when shifting to a new primary residence.

A lot of homeowners are encouraged by these changes to property taxation to downsize. However, many residents are looking to do this anyway, especially older middle class residents who tend to have a  fixed, modest income from Social Security and/or lower income pensions.  And there is always an exclusion from current tax rates to look to, the ever popular parent-to-child exclusion, with a full year to move in, as a primary residence, to inherited property.

Are Benefits from CA Proposition 19 Mainly for “Elites” in 2022 as the Press Tells Us – or for the Middle Class?

Property Tax Transfer in California

Property Tax Transfer in California

California is the only state in America that provides genuine  property tax relief, as opposed to deceptive tax deferment, to residential and commercial property owners and middle class families – specifically in the form of Proposition 13, and now Proposition 19 – for instance a Prop 19 (Prop 58) parent-child exclusion – along with capping yearly property taxes at 2%… when transferring a parent’s low property taxes to an inherited home,  moving into their old family home as a primary residence, with a comfortable 12-months to settle in.  

The problem is, critics of property tax relief in general continue claiming that these tax breaks are mainly helpful to homeowners that are well off… as they out it, “elite homeowners”. With no statistics to back up this often repeated claim.   We hear quotes such as, “Instead of helping the middle class, property tax relief in California allows a wealthier class of citizens to take greater advantage of their predecessors investments.”  This simply is not accurate.

First, as we all know, wealthy folks make up a small percentage of the general public – and the same simple equation applies to homeowners. In microcosm, the majority of families that take advantage of property tax relief in California, that avoid property tax reassessment, are in fact middle class or upper middle class… Not millionaires as the LA Times or San Fran Chronicle would have you believe.

The same 2% to 3% of ‘haves’ versus the 97% to 98% ‘have-nots’ equation – reflecting stark wealth disparity among homeowners all across California holds true when it comes to using property tax breaks to avoid property tax reassessment – to save money… that middle class and upper middle class residential and commercial property owners do not have to throw around on unnecessary tax hikes!

Can you picture genuinely wealthy families that own multi-million dollar homes (that the press continues to inform us are the only property owners gaining genuine benefit from Proposition 13 and Proposition 19) – taking the time to go through property tax break processes, simply to save a few thousand dollars every year? Families with 7 and 8 or 9 figure incomes? 

We can cast serious doubt on that one.  Yet newspapers like the LA Times and San Fran Chronicle still continue to pitch this in Op-Eds as a realistic scenario. 

Yes, there are wealthy investors out there who did take advantage of Proposition 13 tax breaks, for investment properties that would rent out to tourists.. However, this is a fraction of the general home-owning public, and the bulk of folks using these tax break are middle income and even upper middle income residents. They’re not famous, wealthy celebrities like, for instance, the Bridges family…

The Bridges family.  The one and only tale of a rich and famous family “taking advantage” of property tax relief to rent out fancy homes on the beach to upscale vacationers.  Repeated over and over and over again as a cautionary tale, in the press, curiously without any similar stories bring referenced about any other wealthy family in California. It is curious that not one other family  has ever been named or blamed for this type of inheritance / tax break activity, over 3 decades.

To the sheer joy of County Tax Assessors – Californians without proper counsel from a trust lender or a property tax consultant, or estate attorney,  stumble into anticipated property tax mistakes. Generally caused by not filing deadlines properly, or not comprehending complicated legal subtleties; or by not claiming an exclusion or exemption from property reassessment which is staring them right in face.

Without advice from a property tax consultant like Michael Wyatt Consulting in Corona; or life-saving legal counsel from an extremely experienced trust administration / property tax relief attorney like Partner Rachelle Lee-Warner, Esq. — at the Cunningham Legal law firm. Or a reliable lender specializing in loans to trusts and estates,  like Commercial Loan Corp for example, led by inspirational president Kerry Smith, in Newport Beach… Helping heirs inheriting property with a Prop 19 (Prop 58) parent-child exclusion to establish a low property tax base when inheriting a home – also frequently buying out inherited property shares from siblings (co-beneficaries); or helping with the transfer of property between siblings, with a loan to an irrevocable trust… working in conjunction with Prop 19. 

Experts like this specialize in helping beneficiaries and homeowners save on property taxes, avoiding property tax reassessment  with  Proposition 13 and/or Proposition 19; mainly focusing on Property tax transfer, the right to transfer parents property taxes and keep parents property taxes basically in perpetuity, when inheriting property taxes through a parent-child transfer, typically the  popular Prop 19 (Prop 58) parent-child exclusion.

It’s worthwhile contacting a trusted expert, rather than accidentally triggering property reassessment that may increase your property taxes five-fold or ten-fold. A significant tax hike to say the least!

Let’s use the North Bay area in northern California as an isolated microcosmic example of how it is chiefly middle class and upper middle class property owners that have responded to property tax relief measure Proposition 19, for example…

The North Bay Business Journal informs us:  

California’s Proposition 19 has prompted a seven-fold increase in requests to county assessors to transfer property throughout the North Bay.  Barbara Green, the  Change-of-Ownership Supervisor  in the Sonoma County Tax Assessor’s office, tells us,   “It’s crazy! We’re just catching up….”

….[Thanks to Proposition 19] middle class homeowners in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties flooded County Tax Assessors with a load of filings. Sonoma County has taken in 917 filings through Feb. 5. The usual rate is 193 for the three-month period when compared to the previous year.  Although a smaller jurisdiction, Napa County’s government offices are in the same boat. Residents put in 175 of the forms to pass down their properties within the family. Marin County has received 600 more property transfer applications than its usual 54 parent-to-child transfers of property….

Proposition 19 allows homeowners over age 55 to keep a better tax rate when they sell one house and buy another. It took effect on April 1 and applies to anywhere in the state. It’s about as far reaching as the housing tax revolt of Proposition 13 that passed 1978.  There is a fever pitch of reaction within North Bay counties… for filing the parent-to-child property transfer.

North Bay banking, accounting & law firms have all been experiencing a huge increase of calls over the past few months from prospects and clients. And we’re not talking about millionaires calling in or strolling into those offices.

A Closer Look at 2022 Property Tax Portability & Exemptions for Seniors and Homeowners with Disabilities or Property Damage from a Natural Disaster

Property Taxes In California

Property Taxes In California

CA Proposition 19 Expanded Property Tax Breaks

The state of California now informs us that homeowners can transfer the taxable value of their original home to a replacement as many as three times during their life anywhere in the state. The expansion is part of Proposition 19, also called the Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act, that was passed in Nov of 2021.

Eligible homeowners are now able to transfer the taxable value of their primary residence to a “replacement residence” that is also a primary home – anywhere in California, within two years of the sale of the initial property.

Another improvement is the fact that this tax benefit can be taken advantage of three times in ones’ life, as opposed to homeowners’ previous ability to take advantage of this only once, and only in certain counties. Ironically, these property tax breaks offer homeowners relief from excessive limitations – while limiting tax measures such as the popular parent-to-child exclusion, or the ability to transfer parents property taxes and keep parents property taxes, inheriting property taxes, and property tax transfer in general, to avoid property tax reassessment.  Property tax breaks that have helped so many middle and upper middle class homeowners over the years.

Property Damage from California Wildfire

The proponents of Proposition 19 make sure that everyone knows how pleased they are that there are absolutely no limitations for homeowners whose homes were destroyed by wild-fire, or forest fire. This sounds generous, and in some ways it is. However, when you sit back and consider it carefully, it’s not terribly realistic.

You have to ask yourself – how many times in a lifetime is someone’s residence going to be destroyed or seriously damaged by wildfire, or a forest fire? If it’s more than once, it’s doubtful that it’s an accident. Yet the fact remains that California wildfires are spiraling more out of control year after year actually making new property tax breaks for homes damaged or destroyed by wildfires extremely relevant.

In fact, experts tell us that we are now experiencing the worst trend of wildfires ever seen in California, as there has been more wildfire damage in 2020—2021 for example that in the previous three years combined, with millions of acres and thousands of homes and structures having been destroyed by uncontrolled wildfires.

Replacement Property Transfers

However, as most Californians know by now, Proposition 19 has also revised how California residents are able to transfer their property tax base to a “replacement property” in other ways, now with the benefit of being over age 55; of suffering from a severe disability; in addition to owning property that has been damaged or destroyed by other forms of natural disaster such floods or earthquakes, which is not unrealistic, and is actually rather likely, at least in Southern California, just as wildfires are.

California State Board of Equalization (BOE) website Chairman Antonio Vazquez has said recently, “Seniors, the severely disabled, and victims of wildfires or natural disasters can now move to a replacement home anywhere in California and avoid significant property tax increases if eligible. Property tax relief can be beneficial for those especially on limited incomes or who have been affected by wildfires or natural disasters.” Even Mr. Vazquez avoids mentioning unlimited tax breaks during a lifetime for victims of wildfire.

Property Destruction by Natural Disasters

If your property is damaged or destroyed by a calamity, such as a fire, earthquake or flood, you may be eligible for property tax relief.  You may also qualify if you own damaged business equipment and fixtures; orchards or other agricultural groves; or aircraft, boats and certain manufactured homes.

Damaged or destroyed property can be reappraised based on its current condition, and your tax burden will be adjusted accordingly.  Property owners may be able to apply for a deferral of property taxes owed without penalties or interest until the county assessor has had time to reassess the property and correct the tax bill.

As for residential properties, homeowners must have been victimized by a minimum of $10,000 in property damage, or at least 10% of their property’s value, whichever is less, to be eligible for property tax exclusions, or exemptions. Once a home has been rebuilt, the tax basis will rebound to the pre-damage value. Moreover, the base year value of a damaged house can even be transferred for many homeowners.

CA County Tax Assessors

It is important to remember that homeowners claiming disaster caused property tax relief, or their legal representative, must file their claim with the County Tax Assessor’s office inside of 12 months from the date of the property damage; and can even extend the deadline, depending on the county.

County Tax Assessors throughout California can be located here.