Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Disclosure Regarding Death on Property

Disclosures Regarding Death

Most of the time when someone hears that real estate is being sold through probate, they assume that someone died in the unit. In some cases, the decedent may have passed away in the property or they may have died in a hospital or care facility; in other cases, the owner may still be alive and requires the sale to fund their ongoing care--a conservatorship sale.

California has specific laws for disclosures regarding death. In 1983, a case made it statutory that the administrator/executor does not need to disclose a death if it occurred more than 3 years prior to the sale.

If a death occurs on the property within the 3-year period, and the circumstances of the death are material (it was a gruesome or offensive death, or affected the reputation of the property), it must be disclosed.

Deaths more than 3 years past

If the buyer asks if there have been any deaths, the administrator/executor must disclose all known deaths on the property. This is only if the buyer asks.

As a buyer, if you have any concerns or questions regarding death on the property (and not everyone does), you should always ask, in writing, to the administrator/executor. If the death occurred more than 3 years earlier, it’s better to ask than to find out after the close of escrow.

For more information on what disclosures are required for a Probate Real Estate Sale, please visit our website at or call us at 310-777-2858 to receive a free up-to-date California Association of Realtors disclosure chart.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What is an Administrator of an Estate?

Q. What is an Administrator of an estate?

A. An Administrator is a person or entity appointed by the court to administer an estate when no will exists. When a person passes away without a will, the court will have to appoint a person to be in charge of dealing with the person's assets, such as a house. When a house needs to be sold and there is no will, the property has to be sold through the probate process.

Q. What is an Executor of an estate?

A. A person named in a Will and appointed by the Court to carry out the decedent's wishes. This person is usually named as the seller of the real property.

To find out more about Probate Real Estate and Probate Real Estate Terms, please visit our website at or call us at 310-777-2858.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Till Death Do Your Equity Part

We recently came across this article in the California Association of Realtors Magazine and thought it would be useful to you.

"Till Death Do Your Equity Part "
By William Cuthbertson, MBA

You’re at the escrow office finalizing the purchase of your new home, when you’re asked, “How do you want to take title?” You’re told, “There are three primary forms of property ownership in California available to married couples: tenants in common, joint tenants with rights of survivorship, and community property with rights of survivorship.” Armed with that information, you’re even more confused. What will you do?

If you’re like most married property owners, you’ll probably choose joint tenancy. However, if you don’t have a particularly unique legal situation, and you’re a savvy home buyer, community property with rights of survivorship (CPWROS) may be your best option.
Why? Because you want the best tax treatment possible for your surviving spouse in the event they decide to sell the property after your death.

In 2001, it became legal in California for married property owners to take title as CPWROS. Doing so allows married property owners to take advantage of the same automatic title transfer rights provided upon death for joint tenancy title holders, while also benefiting from the improved tax treatment allowed by virtue of holding title as community property.

The tax advantage of CPWROS occurs because of the way tax law adjusts the reported cost of a sold property whose title has changed due to the death of a spouse. In tax talk, this reported cost is called tax basis. In this situation, the tax basis for the entire property in the hands of a surviving spouse is generally stepped up, to an amount equal to the fair market value of the property on their deceased spouse’s date of death.

Consequently, if the property is sold for fair market value, there would be zero gain to report. Whereas, if the property had been held under joint tenancy, only the half share of the property attributed to the deceased spouse would have increased to fair market value, potentially resulting in a much less desirable result.

Property title changes for already held property can generally be accomplished quite easily. If you are uncertain how to proceed, you should contact a competent legal and/or tax advisor.

Death and Taxes
Consider these two examples and their resulting differences.

Common Assumptions

Purchase Price (Original basis): $500,000

Fair Value: $1,000,000

Gain Calculation for Joint Tenants

Sales Price: $1,000,000

Stepped Up Taxable Basis: - $750,000

Gain = $250,000

Gain Calculation for Community Property with Rights of Survivorship

Sales Price: $1,000,000 Stepped Up Taxable Basis - $1,000,000

Gain = $0

The difference in these two examples results from the manner in which the taxable basis is adjusted at death between the two property titling forms.
William Cuthbertson, MBA, is a San Juan Capistrano-based Certified Financial Planner™ professional, and also is enrolled to practice before the IRS and state taxing authorities.

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If you have any questions about holding title, please be sure to consult your attorney or CPA. If you have any questions about probate and trust real estate please contact us, your Probate Realtors at 310-777-2858 or visit our website at

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Didn't Know My Neighbor Died!

The Sanborn Team represents conservators when they sell real estate that is owned by a conservatee.

Since all sales of real estate that are in a conservatorship are sold through the probate code, they are probate real estate sales. This can be confusing, and we often get calls from concerned neighbors thinking that their neighbor has passed away when in fact they are alive and well.

We currently have a home listed in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles and we received a call today asking what happened to the owner. We were thrilled to report that she was alive and receiving great care and that the monies that will be received from the sale of her real estate will go for her continued and future care.

For further information about conservatorships, please visit our website at or call us at 310.777.2858.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Probate Real Estate Term: "AS-IS"

It is very common to see probate and trust real estate connected to the term “As-is.” Simply stated, what you see is what you get, and many times there is no negotiation on repairs for the real estate.

Administrators/executors and real estate agents have an affirmative obligation to disclose KNOWN defects to the buyers. For example, it may be known that the front door sticks and is difficult to open. The administrator/executors will disclose that to you. However, since they have never been in possession of the property they cannot be expected to have the knowledge of the defects or condition of the main systems of the property, such as the roof, the plumbing or the heating system (unless there is some obvious symptom, such as water stains, dripping, or roof tiles in the back yard).

“As-is” means that the executor/administrator has not investigated the condition of the property or had it investigated by a professional inspector--for example, a structural pest inspection or general physical inspection--and that the purchaser of the probate and trust real estate is responsible for requesting and performing any investigation he/she so desires. If the buyer does not elect to perform such investigations, then he/she, and not the executor/administrator will assume liability for any defects subsequently disclosed.

For more information about buying probate and trust real estate, please contact us directly at 310-777-2858 or visit our website at

Monday, January 21, 2008

Get a Home Inspection: Tip for Buying Probate Real Estate

Most of the time when buyers find real estate for sale through probate or trust, there is not a seller to explain the condition of the property and its important systems, such as roof, plumbing, and electrical, and or even minor things, such as the garbage disposal.

Normally, during purchase negotiations, the buyer and seller agree not only on price but also on contingency periods. But when real estate is sold through probate or trust, often the seller will not accept any offer that includes contingencies--even investigation contingencies.

Since probate and trust buyers will not be able to make their offer contingent upon a satisfactory inspection, they can avoid costly "surprises" by hiring a professional inspector to conduct a general inspection before they make an offer on the property. The inspector examines the condition of the home, so the buyers know what they are buying and what repair expenses they need to anticipate.

A home inspection can cost anywhere between $400 and $700 (the price can be substantially higher for apartment buildings). The price is based upon the size of the house and if there is a pool or spa. The inspection will include plumbing, electrical, roof and overall physical condition of the property. The buyers should be present at the inspection and should freely ask the inspector questions.

This inspection is just the starting point. It maybe necessary to hire other inspectors that specialize in specific problems to find out what will need to be done to alleviate significant and future problems with a property.

To find out more about purchasing probate real estate, please visit our website at or call us directly to set up a free consultation 310.777.2858.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Anatomy of a probate real estate sale

Unlike the majority of real estate transactions, in a probate sale the estate is accepting a bid and the accepted offer is that one that is confirmed in court. This can be a very confusing concept to buyers and their agents. We at the Sanborn Team spend a great deal of time counseling both buyers and their agents on how a probate real estate sale takes place.

With a probate sale, a bid is accepted and a court date is set. The attorney who represents the estate prepares a petition for the court and the court sets the actual hearing date. Once the hearing date has been set, the Sanborn Team publicly announces the sale of the real estate property through the multiple listing service,, local publications and our our website to allow for any other interested parties to bid on the house.

The court date is usually within 6-8 weeks of the accepted offer, but the time does vary and there are no hard and fast rules. For example in downtown Los Angeles the probate sales are held every day. In the regional courts the days of sales vary. At the court, the sale of the property is announced and at that time there is an opportunity for any interested party to come and bid on the property.

The initial overbid is determined by the Probate Code, but subsequent bids are set by the judge. Any buyer who overbids on the real estate will be purchasing the property under the same terms and conditions as the original buyer. Once there is an overbid the real estate is sold in an auction with all interested parties being able to bid. When a final bid has been reached the judge announces that the property has been sold. The final bidder needs to provide the court with their exact vesting (how they will be holding titile). From that point on the buyer needs to close the escrow and they will be the proud owners of their new home.

If you have questions about purchasing Real Estate through a probate proceeding please call
The Sanborn Team at 310-777-2858 or visit our web sites
where we work on taking the challenge out of purchasing real estate through a probate proceeding.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hot New Listings!

Check Out Our New Probate & Trust Real Estate Listings!

5601 Ostrom, Encino Village

4+1.75 Traditional Charmer! Located on a cul-de-sac, this home features wood floors, fireplace in living room, serene and grassy yard. Listed for $595,000

17510 Sherman Way #207

Spacious 2+1.75 condo. Features include formal entry, fireplace in living room, spacious eat-in kitchen, washer and dryer inside, 2 spacious bedrooms At an amazing price of $299,000

1016 West 51st Place, Los Angeles

Opportunity Knocks! Two houses on a lot. One house is a 2+1 and the other house is a 1+1.
Listed for $350,000

1552 N. Avenue 46, Eagle Rock

Located in Eagle Rock, walking distance to Occidental College, this 1+1 Spanish is a charmer. Why pay rent when you can own a house?
Listed for $399,000

1558 N. Avenue 46, Eagle Rock

Located in Eagle Rock, walking distance to Occidental College, this is a Triplex. One 2+1 and two 1+1. Back unit is a great owner's unit with a private courtyard. Spanish Charm Galore!
Listed for $599,000

To see all our Probate & Trust Real Estate Listings, please visit our website at

January 15 Beverly Hills Bar Meeting

Upcoming Beverly Hills Bar Meeting
Trust & Estates Program
"Issues and Updates In Trust Administration"
Jacqueline A. Patterson, Attorney at Law, Haney, Buchanan & Patterson
Linda Retz, Attorney at Law
Tuesday January 15, 2008
Registration/Lunch: 11:45 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.
Program: 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
LAWRY'S 100 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills (1/2 block North of Wilshire Blvd.) Free underground parking.
For further information or to register please visit
The Sanborn Team is the official sponsor of the Probate and Trust section of the Beverly Hills Bar Association. To learn more about our services please visit our website at