What is a Heggstad Petition and When can it be Used to Transfer Property into a Trust?

One of the main purposes of setting up a Trust is to avoid the time and expenses associated with a California probate proceeding.  Sometimes, however, an estate asset is inadvertently left out of the trust document, and it’s too late to add it to the trust because the deceased has since passed away.  California Probate Code section 850 et seq. provides a mechanism for fixing the problem without having to complete a full-blown probate proceeding — by filing a so-called “Heggstad Petition.  Read on to learn how it works, when it works, and why someone may want to pursue this legal option.

What is a Heggstad Petition?

A Heggstad petition is a legal tool used when a piece of real property or an asset is excluded from the Trust of a person who passed away. The property or asset must have been intended for inclusion in this Trust, but for some reason didn’t make its way into the trust.  Usually, any asset or property not included in a Trust would have to pass through the probate process. However, the Heggstad petition procedure allows the petitioner to avoid that time consuming and expensive process.  If the Court grants the Petition, it will issue a court order verifying that the property is a Trust asset.

The Heggstad petition originated from a 1993 California Probate court case. In that case the late Mr. Heggstad had executed a Revocable Living Trust that he thought included all his property, but one of his properties was mislabeled and therefore was not transferred properly into the trust. The court allowed an interested party to file a petition seeking to correct the mistake, instead of requiring him to complete a formal probate proceeding.  The court ruled that the evidence supporting the petition sufficiently demonstrated that the property intended to be included in the trust.  Since that decision California Courts have allowed probate court litigants to utilize the petition procedure to resolve whether an omitted asset should have been included in a trust.  The petition procedure has been codified in Probate Code section 850 et seq.

The Key to a Successful Heggstad Petition

A successful Heggstad Petition requires the Petitioner to show the subject estate asset was intended to be included in the trust but was inadvertently omitted from the trust for whatever reason.  Such a showing may include evidence that the decedent experienced extenuating circumstances that prevented them from transferring the property.  For example, the transfer process may have been initiated but the decedent passed away before it could be completed.  The showing can also be made with evidence that the transfer mechanism failed due to flawed documentation or mislabeling, or the decedent simply forgot or did not understand how to properly transfer assets into a Trust.

If the court confirms that the property should have been included in the Trust, the petition is approved. The Trustee is then authorized to manage and distribute the asset(s) in question per the terms of the Trust.

How Long Does a Heggstad Petition Take?

On average, the Heggstad petition process takes between two and four months. The average probate length in California is currently one to two years.

How Much Does a Heggstad Petition Cost?

We are offering this service for $699 plus the court filing fee of $495.  Our price is significantly lower than what a law firm would charge for the same service.  Please call or message us if you would like to start a case.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355, or  Our experienced professionals are standing by to take your order and/or answer any questions you may have.

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