Determine the Current Title and Vesting to Your Property.
As a starting point, you need to determine the current vesting on your property. This can be done with either a title report, or by doing a bit of research on your property. Many title companies will assist with this for a nominal charge. Alternatively, you can go to your County Recorder's office and do your own research. Your goal is to determine (1) Who exactly is listed as the owner of the property, (2) How title is held (for example: Joint Tenancy, Tenants in Common, Community Property, etc), (3) The legal description of the property, and (4) The Assessors Parcel Number (APN).
Prepare a Deed
With the information obtained in Step One in hand you can draft a deed. You can either use a pre-printed form, or create your own. Be sure to check with your local County Recorder for any specific formatting requirements. Also, be sure your pre-printed form or template is California specific. Generally, the grantee on the Deed should be written as "[name of the trustee(s)], Trustee(s) of the [name of the trust] dated [date of the trust]" (you fill in the information in brackets). Be careful, a mistake on a Deed can be costly down the line!
Be Aware of Your Lender and Title Insurance
Be aware that in some instances deeding a property to your trust could violate the terms of your Deed of Trust (your mortgage). If you have concerns you should check with your lender. Also, be aware that recording a deed may affect prior title insurance.
Prepare a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report
Along with the Deed, you need to complete a Preliminary Change of Ownership Report. Fill-in-the-blank forms are available from your local County Assessor's website or office. Fill in the requested information and check the appropriate boxes. Sign the form.
Execute Your Deed
The current owners need to sign the deed. Note that your signature will need to be notarized.
Record Your Deed
Deliver or mail your executed Deed and Preliminary Change of Ownership Report to your County Recorder along with the appropriate recorder's fee. If mailing, check with the Recorder as to the correct fee. Please note that while the Recorder will review the document to be sure it meets the recording criteria, they do not provide legal advice. It is up to you to ensure that the Deed in fact meets all the legal requirements needed to transfer the property into the your trust.
Wait for the Deed to be Returned
You will receive your original recorded Deed from your County Recorder a few weeks after recording. Counties vary on how long this takes.
Keep the Property in the Trust
There are occasions where property might be taken out of the trust. The most common is a re-finance. If you do take the property out of the trust you need to be sure a Deed is prepared and recorded transferring it back into the trust. If you have re-financed since originally executing your trust it is a good idea to check the title on your property (Step One) to make sure it is in fact still in the trust.
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