Bohnett v. County of Santa Barbara

Facts: A couple dies owning a property vested in a trustee under a family trust agreement. As called for in the trust agreement, the trustee conveys the property to the couple’s adult children, avoiding reassessment as exempt. Later, one of the children purchases the interests of their siblings by a grant deed conveyance. The county reassesses the property to current market value. The child pays the property taxes on reassessment and demands a refund for overpayment, which the county rejects.

Claim: The child claims the property a sibling acquires from their parents is exempt from reassessment since the property was transferred between parent and child using a trust agreement.

Counter claim: The county claims exemptions from reassessment of property taxes do not apply to the separate transfer of the property between siblings since the transfer is a sibling-to-sibling transfer, not an exempt parent-to-child transfer. 

Holding: A California appeals court holds the transfer between siblings triggers reassessment of the property since the exemption from reassessment applies to parent-to-child transfers, not sibling-to-sibling transfers. [Bohnett v. County of Santa Barbara (2021) 59 CA5th 1128]

Editor’s note – Proposition 19, which allows transfers without reassessment, does not exempt the transfers in this case since it only exempts transfers of a home or farm between parent and child or grandparent and grandchild when the grandchild is the only direct line of descent remaining.  

Read the case text here.