Because real property is among the most valuable of assets, the question of how parties take ownership of their property is of great importance. The form of ownership taken—the vesting of title—will determine who may sign various documents involving the property and future rights of the parties to the transaction. How title is vested has important legal and tax consequences and will have significant implications in the event of death.
I will go into all the options in more detail in weeks to come, but here is a brief synopsis:
A Single Man or Woman, an Unmarried Man or Woman or a Widow or Widower
A Married Man or Woman as His or Her Sole and Separate Property
A Domestic Partner as His or Her Sole and Separate Property
Community Property: In California, real property conveyed to a married person, or to a domestic partner is presumed to be community property, unless otherwise stated. Since all such property is owned equally, both parties must sign all agreements and documents transferring the property or using it as security for a loan. Each owner has the right to dispose of his/her one half of the community property by will.
Community Property with Right of Survivorship: A form of vesting title together by spouses or by domestic partners. This form of holding title shares many of the characteristics of community property but adds the benefit of the right of survivorship similar to title held in joint tenancy. There may be tax benefits for holding title in this manner. On the death of an owner, the decedent’s interest ends and the survivor owns all interests in the property
Joint Tenancy: A form of vesting title to property owned by two or more persons, in equal interests, subject to the right of survivorship in the surviving joint tenant(s). Title must have been acquired at the same time, by the same conveyance, and the document must expressly declare the intention to create a joint tenancy estate. When a joint tenant dies, title to the property is automatically conveyed by law to the surviving joint tenant(s). Therefore, joint tenancy property is not subject to disposition by will.
Tenancy in Common: A form of vesting title to property owned by any two or more individuals in undivided fractional interests. These fractional interests may be unequal in quantity or duration and may arise at different times. Each tenant in common owns a share of the property, is entitled to a comparable portion of the income from the property and must bear an equivalent share of expenses. Each co-tenant may sell, lease or will to his/her heir that share of the property belonging to him/her.