The Rights That Go With Real Property

The rights that go with real property can be summed up by the term appurtenances. When real property is sold, appurtenant rights are ordinarily sold along with it. They can, however, be sold separately, and may be limited by past transactions. In addition to knowing the boundaries of the land and which items are considered part of the real property (fixtures vs. personal property), homeowners and lenders also need to understand which rights are being transferred along with that parcel of real estate.

Fee simple ownership includes such other appurtenances as access rights, surface rights, subsurface rights, mineral rights, some water rights, and limited air rights. One way to understand the rights that accompany real property is to imagine the property as an inverted pyramid, with its tip at the center of the earth and its base extending out into the sky. An owner has rights to the surface of the land within the property’s boundaries, plus everything under or over the surface within the pyramid. This includes oil and mineral rights below the surface, and certain water and air rights. Air rights are sometime regulated by each state allowing for air traffic and water rights can differ from state to state.

It is possible, though, for the owner to transfer only some of the rights of ownership to another person. For example, a property owner may sell the mineral rights to a piece of property, but keep ownership of the farm. Later, when the land is sold, the mineral rights will most likely stay with the mining company (depending upon the wording of the contract involved) even though the rest of the bundle of rights in the land is transferred to the new owner. The new owner is limited by the past transaction of the previous owner, and may not sell these mineral rights to another party, nor transfer them in a future sale of the land.

A lender must know if the entire bundle of rights is being transferred (fee simple) or if there are restrictions or past transactions that may limit the current transfer of ownership in any way. This is important because it may have a great effect on the value of the real property. Transfer of access rights for a sidewalk to be placed across the front of a subdivision lot generally would not have a significant impact on the value of a piece of land. Transfer of mineral rights to a mining company, as in the previous example, likely would impact the value.

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Land Trusts in California

In California, general trust law is found in the Probate Code §§15000-19403. There is no specific land trust statute in California, unlike Illinois land trust law, (765 ILCS 405/410/415/420), Massachusetts business trust (MBT) law (M.G.L.c.182, §2), and Virginia land trust law (Va. Code Sec. 55-17.1).

So, land trusts created in California for California property are based on general trust law in the aforesaid California Probate Code. But an out-of-state land trust may be formed that would hold title through the trustee of a California property, to take advantage of more beneficial statute and case law of another state. Indeed, the Virginia Supreme Court in Air Power, Inc v. Thompson, 244 Va. 534, 422 S.E. 2nd 786 (1992), has confirmed that Va. Code Sec. 55-17.1 gives the trustee of a land trust both legal and equitable power of the real property, which protects the privacy of the beneficiaries.

Indeed, since California does not have a specific land trust statute, there is no legislative history nor developed case law on it in this state, only California general trust law and case law. But a general trust law may have some advantages over a specific land trust statute with more requirements. Indeed, Illinois land trust statute (75 ILCS 435) requires that holders of power of direction owe fiduciary duties to holders of beneficial interests. California general trust law does not have a similar requirement.

In any event, the avoidance of probate over a real property in a land trust trumps all difficulties in its creation.

I. California General Trust Law:

A. Creation Of Trust:

California Probate § 15000 states that “(t)his division (Division 9 of the Probate Code) shall be known and may be cited as the Trust Law.” And § 15001(a) states that “(e)xcept as otherwise provided by statute: This division applies to all trusts regardless of whether that were created before, on, or after July 1, 1987.”

Among other methods of creating trust, a trust may be created by: “(b) (a) transfer of property by the owner during the owner’s lifetime to another person as trustee,” under § 15200(b) of the California Probate Code. And “a trust is created only if there is trust property,” under § 15202 thereof.

“A trust may be created for any purpose that is not illegal or against public policy,” under § 15203 thereof. A land trust is not for an illegal purpose, nor is it against public policy in California, although it is not widely used in this state.

And “a trust, other than a charitable trust, is created only if there is a beneficiary,” under § 15205 thereof.

B. Trust Of Real Property And Personal Property:

So as not to violate the Statute of Frauds, which requires a written instrument to be enforceable, §15206 states that “a trust is relation to real property is not valid unless evidenced by one of the following methods: (b) By a written instrument conveying the trust properly signed by the settlor, or by the settlor’s agent if authorized in writing to do so.”

And under § 15207 (a) thereof, “(t)he existence and terms of an oral trust of personal property may be established only by clear and convincing evidence.” Under § 1528 thereof, “consideration is not required to create a trust….”

Lastly, “a trust created pursuant to this chapter (1, part 2, Division 9 of the Probate Code) which relates to real property may be recorded in the office of the county recorder in the county where all or a portion of the real property is located,” under § 15210 thereof.

II. Mechanics Of A Land Trust:

A. Advantages And Benefits:

(1.) Privacy:

One of the much-heralded advantages of a land trust is that a grant deed-in-trust of a trust property in the name of a different trustee (private or institutional) may be recorded with the County Recorder, but the land trust agreement that states the names of the truster/settlor/investor and the beneficiaries is not recorded.

Thus, the creator/grantor of the land trust: the trustor/settlor who invests in real property can keep his/her/its name, as well as the names of the beneficiaries out of the County Recorder’s and County Assessor’s books, and to a certain extent hide the investment from public view.

But a judgment creditor of a trustor/settlor or of a beneficiary can subject the latter to answer written interrogatories on his/her/its assets, or to debtor’s examination under oath in court to determine assets, and not merely rely on County Recorder and Assessor asset searches.

The land trust agreement may also use a name for the land trust different from the name of the trustor/settlor who created it. This is another asset protection benefit. And if the beneficiary thereof is also the same trustor/settlor, the latter may designate his/her living trust or wholly-owned limited liability company as the beneficiary to hopefully avoid gift tax issues.

(2.) Avoidance Of Probate:

Moreover, just like successor trustees may be designated in the land trust agreement, successor beneficiaries may also be selected to avoid disruptions in distribution of trust assets at termination of the trust, outside of probate proceedings.

A land trust may be created as revocable (terms of the agreement may be changed) or irrevocable (cannot be changed), but the latter requires the filing of separate tax returns and is taxed at a higher rate than the trustor/settlor’s individual tax rate, unless considered a simple trust in which all incomes created are taxed to beneficiaries. For federal income tax implications, if the grantor/trustor is also the beneficiary, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) classifies it as a grantor trust that has tax consequences that flow directly to the trustor’s Form 1040 and state return.

(B.)Disadvantages And Pitfalls:

(1.) Separtate Agreement For Each Property:

In order to preserve the privacy of the investment or transaction and the asset protection benefits of the land trust, only one real estate property can be listed as held in it. Thus, a different land trust agreement is created for each property. This could be cumbersome, although the same trustor/settlor, trustee, and beneficiary can be named in each agreement.

(a) Simpler Alternatives:

Simpler alternatives are to purchase investment or rental properties through a limited partnership (LP) or a limited liability company (LLC), or transfer such properties to a more flexible living trust that does not require the filing of separate tax returns, or transfer the ownership interests of an LLC (not title of the property) to a living trust.

An LLC may also create a land trust by conveying title of a property to the trustee, and designate itself (LLC) as the beneficiary for privacy of ownership. Sometimes less is more; for indeed, creditors can see through and have recourse against avoidance of execution of judgment on properties through asset protection schemes. And transfers of ownerships of properties may result in tax assessments.

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The Truth About Personal Injury Protection – & Some Myths

Trying to get insurance cover can be a real minefield to most people. It is almost always an unbelievably expensive item with respect to the family budget. Unfortunately however, it can be horrendously costly in another way if the cover is not appropriate or does not cover the intended items. Let’s look at the main kinds of cover and attempt to throw a little light on the subject.

The best automobile insurance policies will include the following items: uninsured motorist coverage, personal property liability, collision coverage, bodily injury liability, comprehensive coverage and personal injury protection (PIP). Some of these elements are required by all states whilst others are not required. Collision coverage pays for all damages to a automobile or other vehicle when it is in collision with another automobile or other vehicle or non-vehicular object, even if the insurance holder is at fault. Comprehensive insurance policies protect the insurance holder in the unfortunate situation that their automobile or other vehicle is taken without the owner’s permission, damaged illegally, harmed by an act of nature or damaged otherwise. Both of these kinds of insurance are always optional and are usually very costly.

Bodily injury and personal property insurance are required by all U.S. states in in one way or another. Where the states differ greatly is in the minimum guaranteed payout that is set for each. For example, in Alaska, a driver is required to carry coverage that has a guaranteed minimum bodily injury payout of $100,000. In Florida, a driver is only required to carry coverage worth $10,000.

Many elements of an auto insurance policy that could be optional are cover for the uninsured motorist and personal injury protection. The coverage for the uninsured motorist protects the insurance holder in case he or she has an accident with an uninsured person. It provides the insurance policies that should possibly have been supplied by the other party. PIP, in the event of an accident, pays for the medical expenses and other assorted damages incurred by the insurance holder and their passengers (or if the insurance holder is an injured pedestrian). Carrying personal injury protection is mandatory in: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and Utah.

Even if personal injury protection is not mandatory in your state, you may still want to consider purchasing the insurance policies. PIP, in the event of an accident, will pay around 80% (depending on insurance policies limits) of the costs of the insurance holder and passengers. These costs include medical bills, lost wages and other assorted expenses. personal injury protection is a no-fault policy, so it will cover you and your passengers, even if the reason for claim was your fault.

personal injury protection, sometimes known as Medical Payment Insurance or Medpay, is a no-fault insurance policies for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the fact that blame does not have to be confirmed saves time and therefore allows medical payments to get into the pockets of the injured parties as soon as possible.

Secondly, it saves everybody from the cost of lawsuits being filed so that responsibility can be proved for an accident and therefore who has responsibility for the bills. One time a personal injury protection policy might allow for a lawsuit is when serious injury or death occurs.

Before you purchase personal injury protection, you would be advised to take a look at your current policies and see whether or not the insurance policies offered by personal injury protection is duplicated elsewhere. It could be that the cost of lost wages and medical bills may be recovered through an existing health insurance policy. If this is the case, then you may need minimal personal injury protection or none at all. Your driving habits will also help determine whether or not you need personal injury protection. Do you carry passengers on a regular basis? While your health insurance might cover your own medical expenses, it won’t cover those of your passengers (unless they are members of your family who are on your health plan). Ask your regular passengers about their own health insurance policies and its coverage. If they are inadequately covered or not covered at all, you need personal injury protection in order to keep them covered. This may seem like the thin end of the wedge, especially if you’re the one driving an office car pool, however, the safety of any passenger riding in your car is always going to be your responsibility.

If you reside in a state that requires personal injury protection you will need to know the minimum amount of cover you must have because this has already been decided for you. If you live in a state where personal injury protection is not mandatory however, you might decide that you need the extra insurance policies anyway. How much insurance policies you need depends, mainly, on your age. If you are middle-aged or older, have good health and liability insurance policies, then you will need minimal personal injury protection insurance policies. If, on the other hand, you are young, just starting out and still don’t have much in the way of health and liability insurance, you will want to protect yourself, your family and your future by carrying as much insurance as you can afford. This is especially true if you have a young family or if you constantly carry others in your automobile or other vehicle.

So there we have it, whether you require PIP and at what level, depends on several factors: where you live, your driving habits, your employment, your health, your personal circumstances and your level of existing cover. Whatever your circumstances however, you need to research it carefully so that you can rest easy knowing that you are safely covered.

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