Friday, February 22, 2008

Steinhart v. County of Los Angeles (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 28, 2007)

Sometimes I write full blog entries but don't post them immediately, often because I feel like adding more later if I have the time. Which, sadly, I rather do. So they just sit there in "draft" form until I either eventually get to them or simply delete them.

So I was going through my drafts today -- there aren't that many, actually -- and came across this one. Which I thought I'd just post as is. Here's what I wrote (the day the opinion came out back in September):

Here's a darn good -- and easy -- way to avoid a reassessment of your property (and hence a massive increase in property taxes) upon your death. Which is very useful if you're not otherwise eligible for the parent/child or other exceptions to the reassessment rule.

Just create a trust and give a life estate to someone -- most likely, a family member (e.g., your sister) -- upon your death. Ta-da. Property taxes for the property remain at the same artificially low level. Even after you die.

At least for now. This opinion by Justice Klein, in a case from Los Angeles, creates a split in the Court of Appeal. So, wholly apart from the merits, I'd be very surprised to see the California Supreme Court not take this one up.

Assuming, of course, that the California Legislature doesn't act first and legislatively overrule this opinion by enacting Property Tax Rule 462.060(a) -- which the Court of Appeal invalidates -- as a statute. Which also is a distinct possibility. Especially since you're talking about a lot of scratch in property tax revenue here.

Stay tuned. This one definitely ain't over.

POSTSCRIPT [2/22/08] - Of course, I immediately looked the status of the case up, and, yes, on December 12th, the California Supreme Court granted the petition for review. What a shock.