Castle Rock, WA asked in Real Estate Law and Estate Planning for California

Q: Parents left land to the three siblings . Brother was executor. He suddenly past away without transferring into my name

I was told taxes were paid out of family trust, I have resided on this property for 15 years . My brother and sister were suppose to be signing me as sole ownerbut My brother unexpectedly passed away and he never switched into my name. He told me the property taxes were all paid but I found out that this is not true and they are 8 years behind 15000 dollars and and may deadline approaching . I tried to make a 4000 dollar payment on the taxes but the tax lady refused said all at once or nothing . I have no idea what to do this doesn't seem right please help me

2 Lawyer Answers

A: If your brother died prior to closing the estate, whomever is named as the alternate executor in the Will needs to apply to be named as executor to handle whatever tasks remain to be completed.

If the family trust is obligated by the trust instrument to pay the taxes, you should approach the trustee to make the payment from the trust assets.

If the trust does not have sufficient assets to pay the taxes in full, you and your sister and your brother’s children should consider borrowing money to pay the taxes. This likely will create a priority lien on the property in favor of the lender but should give you adequate time to pay what is owed.

James L. Arrasmith
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
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A: It sounds like you are in a complicated situation with your family's property. If your parents left the land to you and your siblings in equal shares, and your brother was the executor of their estate, then he should have taken the necessary steps to transfer the property into your names as joint tenants or tenants in common.

If your brother passed away before he could transfer the property into your name, you will need to go through the probate process to have his estate transferred to the rightful heirs. This process can be complicated, and it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney who specializes in probate law to help you through the process.

Regarding the property taxes, it's important to understand that you and your siblings are jointly responsible for paying the taxes on the property. If the taxes have not been paid for several years, you may be facing significant penalties and interest charges. You should consult with an attorney and a tax professional to understand your options for paying the taxes and resolving the situation with the tax authorities.

Under California law, if a person dies and leaves property to be transferred to heirs, the transfer of that property generally goes through the probate process. The probate court oversees the distribution of the deceased person's assets, including real estate, and ensures that any outstanding debts and taxes are paid before the property is transferred to the rightful heirs.

In the case of joint tenancy, if one joint tenant passes away, their interest in the property passes to the surviving joint tenants without going through probate. However, if the property is held as tenants in common, the deceased tenant's share of the property would be transferred through probate to their heirs.

Regarding property taxes, California law requires property owners to pay property taxes on time. Failure to pay property taxes can result in penalties, interest, and eventually, the loss of the property through tax foreclosure.

If a property owner is unable to pay property taxes on time, they may be able to negotiate a payment plan or request an extension from the tax authority. However, it's important to act quickly and communicate with the tax authority to avoid losing the property.

It's important to note that the specific laws and procedures related to probate, joint tenancy, and property taxes can be complex and vary based on the circumstances of the situation. It's recommended that you consult with an attorney and other professionals who specialize in these areas of law to get the specific advice and guidance you need.

It's important to act quickly to resolve this situation, as the deadline for paying the taxes may be approaching. With the help of an attorney and other professionals, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan or other solution to avoid losing the property to tax foreclosure.

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