California Gift Deed
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Gift Deed for Real Estate Located in California
Gifts of Real Property in California
Gift deeds convey title to real property from one party to another with no exchange of consideration, monetary or otherwise. Often used to transfer property between family members or to gift property as a charitable act or donation, these conveyances occur during the grantor's lifetime. Gift deeds must contain language that explicitly states that no consideration is expected or required. Ambiguous language, or references to any type of consideration, can make the gift deed contestable in court.
A lawful gift deed includes the grantor's full name and marital status, as well as the grantee's full name, marital status, vesting, and mailing address. Vesting describes how the grantee holds title to the property. Generally, real property is owned in either sole ownership or in co-ownership. For California residential property, the primary methods for holding title in co-ownership are tenancy in common, joint tenancy, and community property (Cal. Civ. Code 682). An estate conveyed to two or more unmarried people is considered a tenancy in common, unless a joint tenancy is designated (Cal. Civ. Code 683). Spouses vest as community property, with an option for survivorship rights (Cal. Civ. Code 682.1).
As with any conveyance of realty, a gift deed requires a complete legal description of the parcel. Recite the source of title to establish a clear chain of title, and detail any restrictions associated with the property. Each grantor must sign the deed in the presence of a notary public for a valid transfer. All signatures must be original. In California, when real property is conveyed as a gift, no transfer tax is due, pursuant to Cal. R&T Code 11930. This exemption should be indicated on the first page of the instrument. Record the completed deed, along with any additional materials, in the clerk's office of the county where the property is located. Contact the same office to verify accepted forms of payment.
In California, every legal transfer of real property requires a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report. This form should be completed by the grantee and filed with the instrument (Cal. R&T Code 480.3).
With gifts of real property, the recipient of the gift (grantee or donee) is not required to declare the amount of the gift as income, but if the property accrues income after the transaction, the grantee is responsible for paying the requisite state and federal income tax .
In California, there is no state gift tax. For questions regarding state taxation laws, consult a tax specialist. Gifts of real property in California are, however, subject to the federal gift tax. The person or entity making the gift (grantor or donor) is responsible for paying the federal gift tax; however, if the donor does not pay the gift tax, the donee will be held liable .
In accordance with federal law, individuals are permitted an annual exclusion of $15,000 on gifts. This means that if a gift is valued below $15,000, a federal gift tax return (Form 709) does not need to be filed. However, if the gift is something that could possibly be disputed by the IRS -- such as real property -- a donor may benefit from filing a Form 709 .
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Contact a California lawyer with any questions about gift deeds or other issues related to the transfer of real property.