Beware of scammers after real property transfers

One important step in creating a living trust is trust funding.  This is the process of renaming your assets into the name of the trust.  .

For example:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith own a home as joint tenants.  They create a revocable living trust to avoid probate and provide a private administration of their assets upon their deaths.  After the trust is signed and notarized, they have two deeds prepared: the first transfers from Mr. and Mrs. Smith as joint tenants to Mr. and Mrs. Smith as community property.  This step ensures the stepped-up basis in capital gains taxes is realized for these clients.  The second deed transfers the property from Mr. and Mrs. Smith as community property to Mr. and Mrs. Smith as trustees of their living trust.

The deeds are signed and notarized and then recorded with the local County Recorder’s Office, where they become public record. It is the only part of creating a living trust estate plan that must be publicly accessible.

Some businesses prey on unsuspecting property owners by sending them solicitations to provide copies of the newly-recorded deeds to the property owners, for exorbitant fees. The solicitations usually look as though they originate from a government agency, which is done to confuse and persuade people to buy these services.  This is NOT necessary.

It is standard practice among estate attorneys to request that the recorded deeds be mailed back to the attorney’s office, so that the attorney can take a photocopy of the recorded deeds for the file.  Then the attorney forwards the original, recorded deeds to the clients for safe-keeping with their estate documents.

If you receive a solicitation from a suspicious-looking organization offering to mail your deeds for an astronomical price, you may disregard it and call your estate attorney for follow-up.