Heggstad Petition: Putting Property Into a Trust After Death

Heggstad Petition: Putting Property Into a Trust After Death

What is the Heggstad Petition? When is it used?

A person’s trust may serve many purposes, one of which may be to ensure that the person’s estate is distributed to designated beneficiaries of the trust. Upon the settlor’s (owner of the trust) death, the decedent’s properties will be distributed according to the terms of the trust, instead of going through probate.

To ensure that one’s real estate is held by the trust, the owner generally needs to transfer title of the real property to the trust by a separate deed. Accordingly, if there is property that is not within a person’s existing trust at the time of the person’s death, the property will go through probate and be passed on by intestate succession (the law of inheritance).

An exception was created under California law, however by Estate of Heggstad (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 943. Where it is clear that the decedent’s intent was to include the assets as part of trust property, there is a judicial means of transferring the property into the trust.

This procedure is commonly known as the “Heggstad Petition” and can be brought in probate court by a personal representative, trustee, or an interested person under California Probate Code section 850. Someone who would have benefitted from intestate succession may object to the Heggstad Petition, decreasing its chance of being granted.

In making a showing that the particular asset should be transferred into the trust, a petitioner should assemble as much evidence as possible showing the actual intent of the decedent. To be successful in one’s Heggstad Petition, it is important to have documents such as a signed letter or a schedule of properties in the trust documentation that includes the particular property at issue. In a more recent case from 2015, the court found that the settlor’s statement in a revocable trust conveying all of his real and personal property to himself as  trustee was sufficient to transfer his real estate into the trust. (See Ukkestad v. RBS Asset Finance, Inc. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 156.)

Our attorneys at Schorr Law are experienced in dealing with real estate issues that arise out of probate and trust controversies. If you have a question about your matter, please contact info@schorr-law.com or (310) 954-1877.