Interpretations of AB 139: Transfer on Death Deeds (TOD)

Property Qualifications: The Transfer on Death Deed transfers “Real Property” on the death of its owner without a probate proceeding under specified rules. The definitions section of the bill defines “Real Property” to mean any of the following (1) a parcel of property that contains one to four residential dwelling units, (2) a condominium unit, or (3) a parcel of agricultural land of 40 acres or less, which contains a single-family residence. This essentially rules out being able to use this deed to transfer business property except maybe in certain situations discussed below. Below are interpretations of the bill regarding different types of properties:

Residential Housing Rental properties: As long as no more than four residential dwelling units are found on one single parcel, the property could be transferred by a TOD deed. Thus, if you have five or more residential rental units on the same parcel, they would not qualify.

Residential Home that is used as/for a business: There appears to be no restriction on homes that are also used as a business as long as the home is a residential dwelling unit. Further, there is no requirement that one live in the home, so even if the owner uses the residential home for business purposes only, the property would still qualify.

Condos: It is clear that one condominium unit qualifies as “Real Property”. A tricky question here is whether a single property containing four or less condos can qualify. The first option listed above would seem to allow for the property to qualify as the property would contain no more than four residential dwelling units. The second option seems to not allow for such a property to qualify as it refers to a singular condominium unit. However, because the bill states that “Real Property” means any of the following, the stronger argument would be that as long as one of the options is met, the property would qualify. Therefore, the best interpretation of this bill in regards to four or less condos on a single property is that such a property would qualify.

Apartment Complex: Would a small apartment complex of four units or less qualify? This seems like a similar situation to the one involving condos. The argument can be made that each unit is residential and that there is no more than four of them on a parcel. Further, the bill does not single out an apartment like is does one condo. The counterargument would be that the apartments are seen as a business property and that the bill was not intended to allow for transfer of apartment complexes. According to the definition provided for “Real Property” however, such a complex would seem to qualify. Thus, unless further clarification is put forth by the legislature, it appears that such a property would qualify.

Agricultural land: Agricultural land less than 40 acres can qualify, but only if the parcel contains a single-family residence. Could an owner of more than 40 acres of agricultural land subdivide his property into separate parcels in order to qualify? If each subdivided plot contained a single-family residence, then the answer would seem to be yes. But even if barns or storehouses could be modified to be single-family residences in order to qualify, the costs associated with such modifications or placements of single family residences on each 40 acre parcel would easily outweigh the cost of simply placing the property in a trust.

Common knee injuries from auto accidents

Knee injuries suffered due to car accidents might not be as common as back related injuries, but they are not uncommon and have the potential to be very serious and costly injuries. Knee injuries often occur as a result of head-on and side-impact collisions. The most common types of knee injuries cause kneecap damage or ligament damage.

Kneecap injuries often occur when parts of the vehicle cave in on drivers and passengers. It is not uncommon for side doors and windows to cave in and crush drivers or passengers knees. This can lead to a fractured knee cap, which requires open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgery. During this surgery, the knee is reconstructed while fractured pieces that cannot be repaired on removed. After surgery, therapy usually lasts from 6 to 9 months. In total, the cost for the surgery and therapy can reach $12,000.

Ligament damage occurs when the car accident damages tendons and muscles in the knees. The ligament damage that takes place is normally determined by the force of the impact and the degree to which the tendons and muscles are stretched or twisted beyond their normal intended capacity. Most car accident knee injuries are to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The purpose of the ACL is to give the knee flexibility. The ACL usually returns to form when stretched, but twisted too forcefully, it can become strained or even torn. While a strain results in mild to moderate pain, a tear can cause excruciating pain. Other less common knee ligament injuries from car accidents include damage to the medial collateral ligament (MCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL) or posterior collateral ligament (PCL).

When your knees are hurt in a car accident, it is important to pay attention to your symptoms for both medical purposes and for making a personal injury claim. If you are experiencing pain, discomfort, and/or swelling, you should seek immediate medical attention. Doctors can determine the extent of your injury using X-rays or a MRI. An ACL sprain can usually heal with rest and therapy, with therapy usually lasting between 3 to 6 months. A bad tear could require arthroscopic surgery and 6 to 9 months of recovery time.

Cell Phones and Car Accidents

As most Californians are aware, it is illegal in California to use handheld wireless phones and to text while driving. In regards to texting, this means you may not write, send, or read text messages, instant messages, or email. These laws apply to everyone driving in California, even non residents. The laws do not apply to passengers however as passengers are free to use their devices as they please. There are a few exceptions that allow for cell phone usage by a driver, including emergency calls to emergency service organizations and when one is operating a vehicle on private property.

Such laws have been implemented due to safety concerns as studies suggest that drivers who use cell phones while driving are more distracted, leading to more accidents. In the U.S. in 2012, 415 people were killed in crashes where at least one of the drivers involved was using a cell phone. There were also an estimated 28,000 injuries due to cell phone related crashes. Many experts feel these numbers are actually smaller than the actual numbers due to cell phone usage in crashes being underreported by authorities who investigate crashes. This is because as of now, there is no reliable method to accurately determine when cell phone usage was involved in crashes. Often times police must rely on drivers to admit to cell phone use and many drivers are not always willing to admit to cell phone usage.

A California study found that males accounted for more cell phone related injury crashes than females, and that 21 to 30 year old drivers accounted for the largest percentage of drivers involved in cell phone related injury crashes. This California study also found that drivers that reported using a cell phone at the time of injury crashes were more likely to be found at fault

If you receive a ticket for talking or texting on your cell phone while driving, your first offense will cost you $76 after all penalty assessments are added up. A second offense rises to $190. These amounts may appear insignificant to some, but the increased risk for loss of life that results from using a cell phone while driving cannot be ignored and is a real problem.

Common injuries suffered by children in auto accidents

According to studies done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), head injuries are the most common injuries sustained by children involved in auto accidents. Children under 1 experience a higher rate of head injuries than older children. The most common type of head injuries suffered by children is cerebrum injuries, mainly contusions or lacerations. Concussions and unconsciousness are more common injuries sustained by children under 1 year old than older children. On the other hand, skull base fractures are more common among children older than 1 than children under 1.

Children involved in rollover crashes had the highest incidence rates of incapacitating injuries. Fortunately, studies have shown that child safety seats are effective at reducing the risk of children receiving incapacitating injuries when involved auto accidents. Specifically for rollover accidents, the estimated incidence rate for children to experience incapacitating injuries when not restrained was three times higher than for children properly restrained in a child safety seat. For near-side impacts, unrestrained children were eight times more likely to sustain incapacitating injuries! Clearly the importance of restraining your child in a child safety seat cannot be overstated.

Sometimes despite your best efforts to keep your child safe by using the proper child safety seat, serious accidents can result from negligent third parties. With head injuries being the most common injury sustained by children in auto accidents, oftentimes significant and expensive medical treatment is required. CT scans and surgery might be necessary. Luckily, most families are able to receive compensation for such injuries through personal injury claims against the negligent parties.

Seek out an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you through such a hard time. An attorney can gather the necessary evidence from your accident and monitor the necessary medical treatment, in order to help your family receive the compensation you deserve for such an unfortunate event.

AB 139: Transfer on Death Deeds (TOD deed)

This bill, which was approved by the Governor on September 21, 2015, creates the revocable transfer on death deed. This deed transfers real property on the death of its owner without a probate proceeding under specified rules. The bill requires that an individual have the capacity to contract in order to make or revoke the deed and requires the deed to be in a statutory form provided for that purpose. In order for the deed to be effective, it must meet the standard requirements for most deeds in that it must be signed, dated, acknowledged, and recorded. The deed does not have to be delivered to the beneficiary of the deed. The deed does not affect the owner’s ownership rights, but it is part of the owner’s estate for the purpose of Medi-Cal eligibility and reimbursement. Such a deed is void under the bill if the property is titled in joint tenants or as community property with right of survivorship. The TOD deed can only be used to transfer a parcel of property that contains one to four residential dwelling units, a condominium unit, or a parcel of agricultural land of 40 acres or less that contains a single-family residence. The bill has a sunset date of January 1, 2021.

The bill was proposed as a low cost alternative for those seniors who cannot afford attorneys to create trusts or other estate planning documents for them. It was also proposed to help relieve an overburdened California court system. Creator of the legislation, Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Glendale), has said, “Just like a person can designate a bank account to go to a loved one upon death, by allowing individuals to transfer property cleanly through a TOD Deed, we can avoid the expensive probate process and give families greater peace of mind.” The Assemblyman has also pointed out that over twenty other states have already adopted this option. The bill has been supported by California Communities United Institute and the Conference of California Bar Associations, who believe that the TOD deed provides seniors with a simple, no cost method to transfer property to their heirs.

However, many other groups have opposed the bill. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) strongly opposed this bill as they believe it makes many elders even more susceptible to undue influence and elder abuse. As noted above, TOD deeds are subject to estate recovery. Patricia L. McGinnis, the Executive Director of CANHR, has stated that CANHR believes that those low-income elders who are likely to execute TOD deeds are also more likely to be on Medi-Cal and therefore their estates are subject to recovery. The bill was also opposed by the California Land Title Association and the California Escrow Association, who argue that the bill “creates risks that put California’s most vulnerable group – senior citizens – at great risk for real property fraud.” They also argue that TOD deeds are complex and when used without legal advice, they could create confusion and ambiguity that could cloud the properties title.

Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act

The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) further improved protections and benefits for service men and woman under the former Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). The purpose behind the act is to enable servicemembers of the United States to devote their full attention to duty while not having to worry about certain civil obligations back home. Such protections for service members in turn protect national interests.

The SCRA extends relief to all Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy service members on active duty, including reservists, members of the National Guard and Air National Guard who have been activated for duty, and active-service commissioned officers of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In addition, many of the provisions extend to spouses or dependents. The protection begins on the date of entering active duty and generally terminates within 30 to 90 days after the date of discharge from active duty.

Some of the protections from obligations that servicemembers can be protected against under the SCRA include protections against outstanding credit card debt, mortgage payments, pending trials, taxes, and terminations of lease. In regards to outstanding credit card debt, the SCRA limits interest on credit obligations incurred prior to military service or activation to 6 percent for active duty servicemembers. Furthermore, once a servicemember is no longer on active duty, the excess interest cannot then become due as the portion above 6 percent interest is to be permanently forgiven.

As for terminations of lease, a servicemember can terminate a housing lease if the servicemember receives a permanent change of station orders or is deployed to a new location for 90 days or more. A servicemember can also terminate a vehicle lease signed prior to joining the armed forces if the servicemember is called to active duty for 180 days or more. A vehicle lease can also be terminated if a servicemember receives orders for a permanent change of duty location outside the United States or is deployed for 180 days or more. A cell phone contract can also be terminated if a servicemember relocates for at least 90 days to a location that is not supported by the current cell phone service.

Servicemembers and their families can also be protected from eviction from housing while on active duty due to nonpayment of rents if the rent amount does not exceed a certain amount that is set every year. For 2015, the amount is $3,329.84 per month or less.

It is important to note that relief under SCRA is not always automatic and in some cases relief must be affirmatively invoked. If you have any questions and need assistance invoking your rights under the SCRA, it is important that you find legal assistance.