September 6, 2012

California Estate Tax and other Topics

The following are the most common search terms for 2012 that have yielded results for my blog. I thought I would write about this because readers might be curious as to what other people commonly research. The following terms are in order of most frequency.

1. California Estate Tax

This search term strikes me as odd because there is no California estate tax. Furthermore, California has not had an estate tax since 2004. In other words, people are looking for something that does not exist, e.g. Bigfoot, a unicorn, etc.

Unfortunately the amount of legal misinformation on the Internet is expansive. It should not come as a surprise then that people cannot be sure about what they read. Hence, they do some Internet research to see what is true and what is not.

2. Heggstad Petition

This might be the most common probate petition. 

Essentially, a Heggstad petition is where a successor trustee of a trust seeks a court order to transfer property, commonly a home, into the trust because the settlor, the person who originally wrote the trust, never formally did so when they were alive.

3. Small Estate Affidavit California

If a person's estate is small enough, less than $150,000 gross in 2012, a person may collect such assets through the use of an affidavit rather than formal probate.

The valuation amount was increased to $150,000 from $100,000 starting January 1, 2012.

A common erroneous perception of many clients I have spoken to is that real property may be transferred this way. Real property transfers require an abridged probate procedure.

4. California Estate Tax 2012

See # 1

5. California Inheritance Tax 2012

The term used for the at-death tax imposed by the government is called the "estate tax." The "inheritance tax" is presumably a more informal method of saying it. Of note, opponents of the estate tax like to use the term "death tax" when describing it. All three terms: (1) estate tax, (2) inheritance tax and (3) death tax have the same meaning.

6. California Small Estate Affidavit

This proves that not every mind thinks alike. Some Internet users like to lead with California while others like to trail with California.

7. California Inheritance Tax

See # 5


This is the acronym for "California Uniform Transfers to Minors Act." 

A CUTMA is a hybrid between a trust and a guardianship where a custodian has control over a minor's assets to utilize for the minor's benefit until they reach a certain, at most 25 in California.

9. Special Needs Trust California

A SNT is an irrevocable trust designed to maintain government resource eligibility for a disabled individual while simultaneously allowing the trustee access to trust funds to benefit the beneficiary, i.e. the disabled individual, for specific purposes.

This is a technical type of trust that requires much more planning and administration than a regular living trust.   

10. Inheritance Tax California

Apparently most people use the term "inheritance tax" when they think of the estate tax.