The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act (AKA: Prop 19)

For homeowners in California , it’s important to have a good general understanding of how property tax relief is changing. Fortunately, Californians finally do have a clearer understanding of what property tax measure Proposition 19, passed into law on Nov 3, 2020 by voters in the state of California, is really all about, as well as how Proposition 58 has changed, in terms of property tax reassessment.

A lot of property owners in California aren’t aware of the fact that Proposition 19 was also entitled, “The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act” – A peculiar, overly wordy title; indicating that seniors, severely disabled people and victims of wildfires or natural disasters will be able to transfer the taxable value of their “original residence” to a “replacement residence” up to three times during their lifetime – anywhere throughout all 58 counties within the state of California.

California State Board of Equalization Chairman Antonio Vazquez said, in regards to the new tax measure, Proposition 19: “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.”

What is the California State Board of Equalization (BOE)?

For all of us who have heard all about BOE for many years, yet have not really understood what the California State Board of Equalization was really all about – it would be a good idea to sit down for a moment and look more closely at the BOE, and see what it is that they do, and how they break down the new Proposition 19 tax measure.

For starters, the CA State Board of Equalization is literally the only elected tax board in the United States. It contains four Equalization District Members, positioned by locale, plus the State Controller. BOE’s legal responsibilities encompass the management of 58 County Assessors to make sure assessment best practices are in order statewide, without deviating from the set rules and regulations.

Believe it or not, the State Board of Equalization also assesses the property of public utilities along with regulated railroads, and takes in revenue from private railroad car tax. BOE also manages “Alcoholic Beverage Tax” and “Tax on Insurers”; plus property tax administration, promoting “fair and equitable assessments” – protecting tax revenue that school systems, local communities, and the California Legislature depend on, year after year.

Dispelling Confusion Around Proposition 19

The BOE also clarifies some of the confusion surrounding Proposition 19 and its’ ability to help residents avoid property reassessment, in contrast to Proposition 58; confirming that middle class seniors, age 55 and older… often living on a modest fixed income; or those severely disabled, must meet specific requirements to qualify for new property tax breaks.

Both an “original” and “replacement residence” has to meet special requirements in order to be eligible for the homeowners’ or disabled veterans’ exemption. An application has to be completed and filed with the County Assessor to enable transfer of any taxable value. Finally, a “replacement residence” must be purchased or newly constructed within two years of the sale of an original home. If the market value of a “replacement residence” is greater than the market value of the “original residence”, the difference will be added to the taxable value when transferred.

As far as victims of a wildfire or natural disaster are concerned, similar requirements apply but there are no age restrictions. In order to qualify, a residence has to be seriously damage by a wildfire or a legally verified (frequently “governor verified”) natural disaster.

Parent-Child Exclusion, Originally Under CA Proposition 58

It is true that CA Proposition 19 limits property tax relief under CA Proposition 58, most notably the parent-child exclusion. This eliminates the $1,000,000 assessed value reassessment exclusion as in a parent-child transfer of residential property that is not a primary residence. This obviously limits the parent-child transfer exclusion from property tax reassessment to primary residences only.

Yet as long as that criteria is met, Californians can avoid property reassessment, keeping a low property tax base when inheriting a home; as long as the parent leaving the property resided there as a principle residence as well, plus beneficiaries inheriting the property make sure they move in within that 12-month deadline, the California parent to child exclusion from property tax reassessment is protected by Proposition 19, formerly by Prop 58. As long as this type of property tax transfer, Prop 19 property tax break, is used properly, and the move into an inherited home occurs within one year of inheriting property taxes from a parent. To reiterate, taken over by the beneficiary, or heirs, as a primary residence; in order to avoid property reassessment. And according to the new tax laws, as of Feb 2021, this is the only method left to residents, after Proposition 19 limits are imposed, to be able to successfully transfer parents property taxes – and keep parents property taxes, basically forever.

Transfer of Assessed Value to a New Residence

To review, the other major changes to property tax relief for California property owners, as we touched on a moment ago, is relief for homeowners age 55 and older, folks with a disability, or victims of a wildfire or natural disaster. These residents are now able to transfer assessed value of their primary residence in any county in California – to a home they have just bought, or a newly constructed “replacement residence” used as a primary home.

These new Proposition 19 measures apply to real estate anywhere in California, if you are a resident of the state or not. Which is a positive change – plus, certain property tax breaks used be accessible only in certain counties. Californians with vacation homes, residential homes that are for rent, or commercial properties (owned outside any corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, etc.) may not be able to avoid property reassessment, and may have to face property tax reassessment burdens, and may want to seek legal counsel or help from a trust lender or property tax specialist or consultant.

How to Keep Parents Property Taxes In 2021

What was once the parent-to-child property tax break called CA Proposition 58 has now morphed into a property tax relief measure to help avoid property reassessment, called CA Proposition 19… active as of Feb 16, 2021.

Estate and trust lenders are accustomed to teaching beneficiaries and new homeowners freely, in unfettered fashion, how to keep parents property taxes with Proposition 13 or Proposition 58 property tax breaks. But they are still funding trusts with a loan to an irrevocable trust, and helping clients to establish a low property tax base, to avoid property reassessment… Property tax specialists like this are still helping beneficiaries buyout a sibling’s share of inherited property, through a trust loan – the transfer of property between siblings.

Property tax relief experts are still showing beneficiaries how to keep parents property taxes on a property tax transfer, taking advantage of the parent-to-child transfer or parent-to-child exclusion (from current property tax rates); helping families inheriting a home to transfer parents property taxes when inheriting a home, and inheriting property taxes.

Help From Experts

Some California firms with property tax relief expertise have been encouraged to get creative, to meet new property tax challenges and obstacles head on. Firms such as Michael Wyatt Consulting in Corona who specializes in base year value transfers and parent-child transfer exclusion; real estate issues and property tax relief; or well known trust lender and Prop 58 / Prop19 experts Commercial Loan Corp in Newport Beach, who specializes in irrevocable trust loans and lending. This particular trust lender is now offering heirs and beneficiaries inheriting a home from parents a free consultation for property tax savings – to help beneficiaries inheriting a home from parents to keep the parents’ low Proposition 13 property tax base; while also taking full advantage of Proposition 19 and Proposition 58.

This type of evaluation for property tax savings is designed to simplify a relatively complex process, helping heirs evaluate the benefits of a loan to an irrevocable trust, specifically for beneficiaries who want to buyout siblings’ inherited property shares, while keeping inherited property at their parents’ low property tax rate – as well as avoiding costly expenses associated with selling property through a realtor.

The name of the game is to simplify the use of Proposition 19, as well as the transaction between trust lender and beneficiary. A process that is often difficult for families to understand.

Inside View From an Account Manager’s Perspective

One such seasoned proponent of simplification of the Proposition 58, trust loan process is a highly experienced account manager by the name of Tanis Alonso – a particularly hard working, dedicated senior manager, who works closely with her clients, and frequently their estate lawyer or accountant.

In a recent interview with this blog Miss Alonso described her unique personal approach to planning and implementing estate & trust loans for families; how property tax saving trust loans and Proposition 58 tax breaks factor into her family undertakings and financial proceedings, Miss Alonso tells this blog:

We don’t view each trust loan scenario as simply a ‘financial transaction.’ Nor do we see the home they’ve lived in for decades as just a ‘piece of real estate’. To us, this a ‘piece of family history’ in the making. And the process a ‘family decision,’ not a ‘transaction’…

Let’s say a property value is currently one million dollars and the current tax base is $1,200. If they were to get reassessed at current value that would be around $11,000 annually. By someone keeping the property and obtaining a trust loan to properly buy out their siblings that allows the beneficiary that is keeping the property to keep parents property taxes, to retain 100% of the Proposition 13 tax base that was paid by their parents and keep that low property tax base of $1,200.

This of course creates much greater affordability than if they were to improperly buy out their siblings and have that property reassessed. The loan to trust goes hand in hand with the Proposition 58 property tax transfer system, creating enough liquidity to equalize distributions, not sell, and allow a beneficiary to keep their parents property with their low property tax base.

Feedback From A Seasoned Property Tax Consultant

The other example we mentioned, Michael Wyatt Consulting, works in conjunction with real estate attorneys and frequently a trust lender, and formally reviews clients’ real estate values. The firm studies and forms strategy for proposed real estate transactions; ensuring avoidance of property tax assessment.

Mr. Wyatt conducts comprehensive research on real property, real estate deeds, and other instruments for accuracy; and serves as a liaison between clients and the Tax Assessor’s Office – maintaining problem-free communications with Assessors and other essential local government agencies. Mr. Wyatt explains:

We let our clients know the Proposition 58 [or Proposition 19] tax benefit entitles children of parents leaving them property to preserve the low Proposition 13 maximum 2% tax base. A California property tax transfer. However, a lot of people don’t fully understand that you have to apply for the benefit. It’s not automatic. And it doesn’t apply to the principal home. explain to them that they get the assessed value tax benefit only if it’s a non principal home. You get the assessed value waved if for example it‘s a million dollar property… You get the million excluded – but the overage is reassessed… A lot of people don’t know that.

The creators of the trust get this benefit. definition of ‘a child’ or “children” is typically the adult children of a decedent…But this also refers to step-parents. Step-parents can also transfer property to a step-child… Mom can be a step parent and can still get the benefit. In-laws get the benefit as well. You don’t have to be blood relatives.

We basically introduce the trust lender, for example Commercial Loan Corporation, as a private money lender that loans to irrevocable trusts, that applies for and works in tandem with California Proposition 58 [or Proposition 19]… for beneficiaries who are looking to sell their real property shares – for the purpose of facilitating “non pro-rata distribution”… So every heir gets an equal share of the entire overall estate – however, not necessarily of every asset.

Well, if the family in question uses the Commercial Loan Corp company that we have been using for years… the loan they provide is to a trust, and not to beneficiaries; so there is no title, and no crippling 66.66% property tax reassessment. Well, for example, there might be three siblings… beneficiaries – and a house to inherit. And this is always important to remember.

If you’re one out of the three siblings that wants to keep the inherited house, you are definitely looking at a 66.66% property value tax reassessment – if you’re operating without a loan to a trust, or you’re using your own cash; or getting money from a very pricey institutional lender – typically with multiple restrictions and extremely strict terms.”

Mr. Wyatt sums up and simplifies a process that tends to look complicated to new clients. At the end of the day, all families need to understand is the fact that in the end, they save a great deal of money on property taxes if they aim to keep their parent’s home. If they are looking to sell, they simply need to understand that they will be putting lot more cash in their pocket using the trust loan approach, rather than selling to an outside buyer. Everything else is secondary, if you are inheriting property.