The form and manner in which title to real property is held can have a
substantial impact on your rights with regard to your property.
Unmarried sole owners of property will hold title as follows: "John
Doe, a single man." If married, title will be held: "Jane Doe,
a married woman as her sole and separate property." Sole owners can
dispose of the entire property in any manner without restriction (i.e.,
by sale, will, gift, etc.).
If property is co-owned (meaning two or more owners), the parties rights
are determined by the manner in which title is held. Co-owners can hold
title as "tenants-in-common", "joint tenants", "community
property", or "community property with the right of survivorship".
Co-owners who hold title as "tenants-in-common" each will own
undivided interests, which may or may not be equal in quantity or duration.
For example, John can own 60% of a parcel of land, while his friend Mike
owns the remaining 40%, though each is equally entitled to possession
of the entire parcel. Each party is entitled to their share of any income
and must bear their proportionate share of the expenses. Each co-owner
may unilaterally sell, lease, gift or will his or her interest and the
new owner will become a tenant-in-common with the previous owner.
Co-owners can also be joint tenants, however the joint tenancy must be
expressly stated in the deed and the interests must be equal in every
regard (e.g., how acquired, quantity, and duration). The most notable
feature of a joint tenancy is that the co-owners have the right of survivorship,
meaning that when one joint tenant dies, title to the property is automatically
conveyed to the surviving joint tenant(s). As such, joint tenancy property
cannot be disposed of by will or trust. If one joint tenant transfers
his interest, the joint tenancy is broken, and the new owner becomes a
tenant in common with the other owners (who remain joint tenants as between
For the above methods of holding title, a business entity (i.e., a corporation,
partnership, or LLC) or a trust may be the named owner instead of an individual.
"As community property" is a manner of holding title to property
by a husband and wife during their marriage. In California, real property
conveyed to a married man or woman is presumed to be community property,
unless otherwise stated. Since all such property is owned equally and
husband and wife must sign any transfer of, or loan against, the property.
However, each spouse has the right to dispose of their one half of the
community property, including transfers by sale, will, or gift.
"Community Property with Right of Survivorship" allows a husband
and wife to own property together as described above, except that if either
dies, the interest automatically passes to surviving spouse and not the
estate of the deceased spouse.