For Left-handed Researchers – A Little Help

The 10 to 12% of the people in the world who are left-handed have to struggle in a world designed for right handers.

Here at the Alameda County Law Library, we have taken a step to make lefties’ lives just a little bit better.   A new icon on the ACLL public computers now allows a patron to configure the mouse for use as a left-handed person for just that one session.  On the ACLL network software menu, look for the icon named “Left Handed User” icon, click on it, and the mouse is then configured for a left handed person – the buttons at the top are reversed to allow for easier clicking with the index finger on the left hand.

Once the patron logs out, which triggers the computer to reboot, the mouse will automatically go back to the default right-handed mouse setting.

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California History’s Two Bars – MCLE – November 9 – ACLL

California History’s Two Bars ~ stories of California’s Black legal pioneers, local civil rights struggles, and laying roots for the the long fight against exclusion

Speaker: The Honorable Charles A. Smiley, Alameda County Superior Court

MCLE, Thursday, November 9 @ Noon – 1:30 1.5 Participatory credits in Elimination of Bias in the Legal Profession (the tough ones to get!!)

$30 advance registration, $40 day of event, online registration http:/tinyurl.com/y9rszl62

Download flyer @ http://www.acgov.org/law/2017_1109_Black_history_Flyer.pdf  

 

California Judicial Branch Fillable Court Forms – Our Print Mystery Solved

The Black Streaks (my least favorite Emo band)

Black streaks or smudges started to manifest on some of the paper copies of fillable court forms printed at ACLL.  California legal system participants, ever have this problem?  You are using the California Judicial Branch’s website to complete one of the many California Judicial Council’s fillable forms.  No problem entering the information.  Looks great on the screen – nice and clear.  You print a paper copy for the court or your file and on the page appears large black smears (see image.)  What goes?

Without any warning, some of our patrons, who use the Alameda County Law Library‘s public computer network to complete their Judicial Council forms, started to experience these smudges after spending time and effort editing the forms online. Their hard work was ruined.  The reason this problem popped up remained a mystery to the Reference Desk staff.  It was not the network and printing software nor a problem with the court’s website.  We had the Alameda County IT Department dig into the problem.  Thanks to ITD’s Ernest, the mystery has been solved.

It turns out it was caused by a recent Adobe Reader software upgrade.  The court site recommends that people use the freely available Adobe Reader software to edit the fillable forms.   Recent changes to the software caused problems for users of a number of different internet sites’ fillable forms.

The solution

If you have experienced this black smudge/smear problem on the California courts’ or other websites, here is a solution –

Simply stated – In Adobe Reader > Select Edit > Select Preferences > Click on Security Enhanced option from the Categories list > then click on the Enable Protected Mode at startup box to disable this setting option.

Not so simply stated step-by-step instructions –

  • You will need to reset a default setting for Adobe Reader.  (The court website recommends you download the free Adobe Reader to edit the online forms.)
  • Your internet browser’s search screen will present different options and icons in different displays so the following steps are general advice only.
  • The court’s website has information on how to use its fillable forms (including downloading the forms to Adobe Reader) – California Judicial Branch,  Forms – How to Fill   http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-howtofill.htm
  • When using some of the internet browsers, the form first appears in a Viewer. Once you have your selected form on your browser screen in Viewer mode, you will want to bring it up or change it to a fillable form.  Look for the icon or option to download.  When using the Firefox browser it looks like this – 
  • Click on the icon or select the download option.  The form will reappear on your screen with the editable fields highlighted in blue.  Once you have the document in Adobe Reader (AND BEFORE TYPING ANY INFORMATION) you proceed with the needed changes.
  • Uncheck the Enabled Protected Mode at startup box within Adobe Acrobat Reader that is located under the Edit tab using the following steps:

  • Select Edit
  • Select Preferences  on the drop-down menu that appears.
  • Click on Security Enhanced option from the Categories list then click on the Enable Protected Mode at startup box to disable this option.

Why this setting causes the streaks when the document is printed remains a mystery but not one for which the answer needs to be discovered.  Best left to the tech geeks.  I guess you could say it is the importance of knowing Ernest.

The California Judicial Branch’s web pages do not support the use of all browsers and their PDF readers.  More software companies are developing their own internet website browsing and viewing software.  For more information on using the Judicial Council’s PDF forms, see Viewing PDF Files http://www.courts.ca.gov/9651.htm.

 

FAQ For TODs – Common Questions About Transfer On Death Deeds

Questions about using Transfer on Death (TOD) deeds

Housing & Economic Rights Advocates, an East Bay legal aid organization, recently gave an estate planning workshop here at Alameda County Law LibraryHERA provides estate planning services, fees for which are based on a sliding scale.  During the program, the HERA staff attorneys discussed the various estate planning options that may be used to avoid the court costs that mount up when as estate goes through the probate process.  One of the topics discussed was the Transfer on Death deed (TOD) – pros and cons.  The attorneys provided a TOD FAQ document to the attendees.  The FAQ is part of the text of California Probate Code Section 5642 which introduced TODs to California.

Quick review

Back in 2015, California legislators passed legislation to allow for the use of a document – Transfer on Death (TOD) deed –  that allows for transfer of property title after the death of an owner.   A TOD avoids the need to include real property as an asset when probating an estate.  As of January 1, 2016, a property owner may record, in the county property records, a document that names a beneficiary who will receive the interest that the owner has in real property after the owner’s death.  The document is revocable – it can be rescinded while the owner still lives.  There are rules to follow and subsequent paperwork to be completed for this transaction to be completed successfully.  The TOD has its limitations and restrictions.  Using it may not allow you to transfer your property as you would like.  A prior post with more details and links to TOD document templates can be read HERE.

Here is the FAQ:

From California Probate Code Section 5642 (Added by Stats. 2015, Ch. 293, Sec. 17. Effective January 1, 2016. Repealed as of January 1, 2021, pursuant to Section 5600.)

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT THE USE OF THIS FORM
WHAT DOES THE TOD DEED DO?

When you die, the identified property will transfer to your named beneficiary without probate. The TOD deed has no effect until you die. You can revoke it at any time.

CAN I USE THIS DEED TO TRANSFER BUSINESS PROPERTY?

This deed can only be used to transfer (1) a parcel of property that contains one to four residential dwelling units, (2) a condominium unit, or (3) a parcel of agricultural land of 40 acres or less, which contains a single-family residence.

HOW DO I USE THE TOD DEED?

Complete this form. Have it notarized. RECORD the form in the county where the property is located. The form MUST be recorded on or before 60 days after the date you sign it or the deed has no effect.

IS THE “LEGAL DESCRIPTION” OF THE PROPERTY NECESSARY?

Yes.

HOW DO I FIND THE “LEGAL DESCRIPTION” OF THE PROPERTY?

This information may be on the deed you received when you became an owner of the property. This information may also be available in the office of the county recorder for the county where the property is located. If you are not absolutely sure, consult an attorney.

HOW DO I “RECORD” THE FORM?

Take the completed and notarized form to the county recorder for the county in which the property is located. Follow the instructions given by the county recorder to make the form part of the official property records.

WHAT IF I SHARE OWNERSHIP OF THE PROPERTY?

This form only transfers YOUR share of the property. If a co-owner also wants to name a TOD beneficiary, that co-owner must complete and RECORD a separate form.

CAN I REVOKE THE TOD DEED IF I CHANGE MY MIND?

Yes. You may revoke the TOD deed at any time. No one, including your beneficiary, can prevent you from revoking the deed.

HOW DO I REVOKE THE TOD DEED?

There are three ways to revoke a recorded TOD deed: (1) Complete, have notarized, and RECORD a revocation form. (2) Create, have notarized, and RECORD a new TOD deed. (3) Sell or give away the property, or transfer it to a trust, before your death and RECORD the deed. A TOD deed can only affect property that you own when you die. A TOD deed cannot be revoked by will.

CAN I REVOKE A TOD DEED BY CREATING A NEW DOCUMENT THAT DISPOSES OF THE PROPERTY (FOR EXAMPLE, BY CREATING A NEW TOD DEED OR BY ASSIGNING THE PROPERTY TO A TRUST)?

Yes, but only if the new document is RECORDED. To avoid any doubt, you may wish to RECORD a TOD deed revocation form before creating the new instrument. A TOD deed cannot be revoked by will, or by purporting to leave the subject property to anyone via will.

IF I SELL OR GIVE AWAY THE PROPERTY DESCRIBED IN A TOD DEED, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I DIE?

If the deed or other document used to transfer your property is RECORDED before your death, the TOD deed will have no effect. If the transfer document is not RECORDED before your death, the TOD deed will take effect.

I AM BEING PRESSURED TO COMPLETE THIS FORM. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Do NOT complete this form unless you freely choose to do so. If you are being pressured to dispose of your property in a way that you do not want, you may want to alert a family member, friend, the district attorney, or a senior service agency.

DO I NEED TO TELL MY BENEFICIARY ABOUT THE TOD DEED?

No. But secrecy can cause later complications and might make it easier for others to commit fraud.

WHAT DOES MY BENEFICIARY NEED TO DO WHEN I DIE?

Your beneficiary must RECORD evidence of your death (Prob. Code § 210), and file a change in ownership notice (Rev. & Tax. Code § 480). If you received Medi-Cal benefits, your beneficiary must notify the State Department of Health Care Services of your death and provide a copy of your death certificate (Prob. Code § 215).

WHAT IF I NAME MORE THAN ONE BENEFICIARY?

Your beneficiaries will become co-owners in equal shares as tenants in common. If you want a different result, you should not use this form.

HOW DO I NAME BENEFICIARIES?

You MUST name your beneficiaries individually, using each beneficiary’s FULL name. You MAY NOT use general terms to describe beneficiaries, such as “my children.” For each beneficiary that you name, you should briefly state that person’s relationship to you (for example, my spouse, my son, my daughter, my friend, etc.).

WHAT IF A BENEFICIARY DIES BEFORE I DO?

If all beneficiaries die before you, the TOD deed has no effect. If a beneficiary dies before you, but other beneficiaries survive you, the share of the deceased beneficiary will be divided equally between the surviving beneficiaries. If that is not the result you want, you should not use the TOD deed.

WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF A TOD DEED ON PROPERTY THAT I OWN AS JOINT TENANCY OR COMMUNITY PROPERTY WITH RIGHT OF SURVIVORSHIP?

If you are the first joint tenant or spouse to die, the deed is VOID and has no effect. The property transfers to your joint tenant or surviving spouse and not according to this deed. If you are the last joint tenant or spouse to die, the deed takes effect and controls the ownership of your property when you die. If you do not want these results, do not use this form. The deed does NOT transfer the share of a co-owner of the property. Any co-owner who wants to name a TOD beneficiary must complete and RECORD a SEPARATE deed.

CAN I ADD OTHER CONDITIONS ON THE FORM?

No. If you do, your beneficiary may need to go to court to clear title.

IS PROPERTY TRANSFERRED BY THE TOD DEED SUBJECT TO MY DEBTS?

Yes.

DOES THE TOD DEED HELP ME TO AVOID GIFT AND ESTATE TAXES?

No.

HOW DOES THE TOD DEED AFFECT PROPERTY TAXES?

The TOD deed has no effect on your property taxes until your death. At that time, property tax law applies as it would to any other change of ownership.

DOES THE TOD DEED AFFECT MY ELIGIBILITY FOR MEDI-CAL?

No.

AFTER MY DEATH, WILL MY HOME BE LIABLE FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF THE STATE FOR MEDI-CAL EXPENDITURES?

Your home may be liable for reimbursement. If you have questions, you should consult an attorney.

 

The Alameda County Law Library provides access to legal information sources to for members of the Alameda County community to conduct legal research.  The staff of the Alameda County Law Library are not practicing attorneys.  We cannot give you legal advice or refer you to a lawyer. If you are seeking professional advice on California law, you should consult with a lawyer licensed by the State Bar of California.

 

Help Finding Your Way Around The County Recorder & Assessor’s Offices – Tutorials From The Advanced Media Institute

On its website, to assist in the education and training of journalism students, the Advanced Media Institute at UC Berkeley has a collection of tutorials including research tutorials.  Journalists frequently need to research the same subject areas as legal researchers – court cases, property records and business information.  Many of these practical and well-organized research tutorials were authored by Paul Grabowicz for students in his Computer Assisted Reporting class.

For Alameda County legal researchers, these tutorials are especially helpful because, as they are coming out of Berkeley, the organization and procedures of Alameda County and other East Bay government offices are highlighted.

This link – https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/ – will take you to the home page for the tutorials.  The website policy does not allow for any republishing of the content of the tutorials without express written permission but feel free to explore these internet resources.

Researching Alameda County and other East Bay property records

Tutorial: Assessor’s Office https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/assessors-office/  researching who owns a piece of property by address and assessed value, this information is only available in-person, no internet site

Tutorial: Recorder’s Office https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/recorders-office/   guide to what can and cannot be found within county property ownership records, includes abbreviation list for documents listed in records

Other tutorials legal researchers might find informative

Tutorial: Bankruptcy Court Records https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/bankruptcy-court-records/

Tutorial: Business and Corporation Records https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/business-and-corporation-records/

Tutorial: Businesses Regulation Agencies https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/businesses-regulatory-and-licensing-agencies/

Tutorial: Civil Court Lawsuits https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/civil-court-lawsuits/

Tutorial: Criminal Court Records https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/criminal-court-records/

Tutorial: Public Records Act Request Resources https://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/public-records-act-requests    includes examples of sample letters with filing information

The Few, The Proud, The Volunteers For Lawyers In The Library – Volunteers Needed For Alameda County’s Lawyers In The Library Program

Volunteers needed for Lawyers in the Library

The Lawyers in the Library program is a countywide service coordinated by the Alameda County Law Library and staffed by volunteer attorneys.  Volunteer lawyers provide free, short consultations and referrals on a wide variety of issues including landlord-tenant disputes, probate matters, employment problems, and other general consumer issues.  These consultations take place at selected public libraries on a rotating basis throughout the month.

ACLL is seeking legal professionals who wish to give back to their community and assist people who need a helping hand in sorting out their legal issues.  The Lawyers in the Library program is an important component of the law library’s mission of providing access to justice for the community.

The Alameda County Superior Court has consolidated cases involving landlord-tenant, family law, domestic violence,  and small claims at the Hayward courthouse.  These are the areas of law where the parties are most likely to be self-represented.  Public librarians report seeing greater demand for the Lawyers in the Library service in the southern and eastern parts of Alameda County and are eager to fill the current vacancies.

Here are the current vacancies:

Hayward Public Library (835 C Street)

1st Monday/month- 6:00 – 8:00 pm

2nd Tuesday/month- 6:00 – 8:00 pm

 

Hayward Public Library- Weekes Branch (27300 Patrick Ave.)

4th Saturday/month- noon – 2:00 pm

 

Newark Library (6300 Civil Terrace Ave.)

2nd Monday/month- 6:00 – 8:00 pm

 

Livermore Library- Civic Center (1188 S Livermore Ave.)

4th Thursday/month- 6:00 – 8:00 pm

 

Interested in sharing your legal skills with people who need help?  Please contact ACLL at Lawyers in the Library  or (510) 272-6486.

Thank you.