Transfer of California Real Property from Deceased Parent without a…

Transfer of California Real Property from Deceased Parent without a Surviving Spouse

Transfer of California real estate from deceased parent is by deed or court order.

A child takes control and ownership of a deceased parent’s California real property by deed or court order. Tip Sheet by Mark W. Bidwell provides an overview of the process and assumes there is no surviving spouse. First, determine how the property was owned by the deceased parent.

A database of real property owners is maintained in each County in California by the recorder’s office. From the recorder’s office the last transfer deed is available for each real property located in that county. The deed is owned either by the deceased parent only, by the deceased parent with a co-owner, or by the deceased parent’s trust.

If owned the real property is owned by the deceased parent’s trust, the successor trustee steps into the shoes of the deceased parent. The successor trustee is identified in the trust document. Most often the successor trustee is a child of the deceased.

The successor trustee swears under penalty of perjury in a document referred to as an affidavit that in the trust he or she is authorized to act on behalf of the deceased. A certificate of death is attached to the affidavit. The affidavit is filed with the county. The successor trustee then acts as directed in the trust, either by selling the real property and distributing the sale proceeds or by the outright transfer of the real property by deed to a child of the deceased.

If the real property is in joint ownership and has the legal words of “joint tenants” or “community property with the right of survivorship” the survivor takes sole ownership by an affidavit with a certificate of death. But often both joint owners have died and a court order is required.

If the deceased parent was the last co-owner to die or was the sole owner of the real property a petition in probate court is required. The petition nominates an individual for the court to appoint as the personal representative to act on behalf of the deceased. A public hearing at the courthouse for the court order appointing the personal representative is held within 45 days of the filing.

The heirs to the deceased are identified either in a will or by intestate succession. Intestate succession is the set of laws in California that identify who will inherit if there is no will. Children of the deceased parent or the children of a parent’s deceased child are the intestate heirs under California law.

The personal representative is under supervision of the judge of the probate court. Distributions to heirs cannot be made without a court order. The time to distribute the real property and close the probate case is a minimum, one year.

California real property transfers from a parent who has died without a surviving spouse to his or her children is by deed or court order. Real property owned by a deceased parent’s trust or with a surviving joint owner transfer without going through probate court. Real property owned only by the deceased parent or if the deceased parent was the last surviving joint owner transfer is by court order.

This Tip Sheet was written by Mark W. Bidwell, a probate and trust attorney, located in Huntington Beach, California. Office is located at 4952 Warner Avenue, Suite 235, Huntington Beach, California 92649. Phone number is 714-846-2888. Website is

Share article on social media or email: