For many, a manufactured / mobile home is home. What happens when a California resident dies owning a manufactured or mobile home situated in California?

If the manufactured or mobile home is situated on a permanent foundation and a form 433A filed with the county recorder then the manufactured or mobile home and the land are real property. It is administered like any other real property asset owned by a decedent. That is, how the real property is titled, the appraised gross value of the decedent’s estate, the decedent’s will or trust, if any, whether there is a surviving spouse/registered domestic partner, are each considered, when relevant, to determine who inherits the real property and whether a probate, or other approach, is required.

However, if the manufactured or mobile home is not on a permanent foundation, it is not part of the land and is personal property. In California, manufactured homes and mobile homes are generally titled and registered with the California Department of Housing Community Development (“HCD”). Some smaller units are titled with the California Department of Motor Vehicle (“DMV”). Like real property, manufactured or mobile homes can be titled individually, jointly or in trust. Again, title plays an important part in who inherits and how they inherit.

Importantly, California law excludes the gross value of a manufactured or mobile home from the gross value of the decedent’s probate estate to determine whether a probate is required. If the total value of the decedent’s real and personal property located in California is below the current $184,500 probate threshold then no probate administration is required for a “small estate”

Sometimes the decedent’s primary assets are the decedent’s manufactured or mobile home and its lot, unless the manufactured home is on rented land, e.g., a mobile home park where rent is paid.

Moreover, with small estates, if the appraised gross value of all the decedent’s real property holdings in California is under $55,425 (for decedent’s dying after April 1, 2022) then the decedent can record an Affidavit Re Real Property of Small Value and death certificate with the County Recorder to change title to the lot. Otherwise, a “petition to determine succession to real and personal property” in a small estate can be used to change title to the lot and any other real property owned by the decedent with a small estate.

With respect to the manufactured / mobile home, the decedent’s beneficiaries / heirs often sell the manufactured home and the lot to the same buyer in a single sale. If so, the decedent’s beneficiaries/heirs will only have to retitle the real property into their name (often by way of the affidavit approach) before they can sell it. The beneficiaries/heirs can give the title company handling the sale an affidavit of small estate to claim the net proceeds in escrow with the title company attributable to the sale of the manufactured or mobile home, without the names of the beneficiaries or heirs ever appearing on title with HCD. This approach saves the beneficiaries/heirs the expense, time and aggravation associated with retitling of manufactured / mobile homes with HCD.

Anyone owning a manufactured or mobile home that is not on a permanent foundation should keep its original certificate of title and registration in a safe location known and available to their beneficiaries/heirs. This saves retitling fees when the manufactured home is retitled into the name of a buyer or into the name of a beneficiary / heir who keeps the asset.

Typically, a California resident who owns a manufactured or mobile home titled with HCD has a small estate and so can rely on a will for estate planning. Bank and brokerage accounts can be removed from any probate estate by titling them as Pay on Death (“POD”) and Transfer on Death (“TOD”) accounts, as relevant. Doing so is often sufficient to ensure a small estate for someone who owns a manufactured or mobile home and its lot, and no other real property.

The foregoing is not legal advice. Anyone confronting the issues discussed above should consult an attorney for guidance. Dennis A. Fordham, attorney, is a State Bar-Certified Specialist in estate planning, probate and trust law. His office is at 870 S. Main St., Lakeport, Calif. He can be reached at and 707-263-3235.

“Serving Lake and Mendocino Counties for nineteen years, the Law Office of Dennis Fordham focuses on legacy and estate planning, trust and probate administration, and special needs planning. We are here for you. 870 South Main Street Lakeport, California 95453-4801. Phone: 707-263-3235.”