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Your California Home is Your Legacy, Protect it Now

Your California home is your legacy, protect it now. In California, you have several ways to take title to a home. Who inherits is determined by how you take title. Make sure you have the correct title and if you do not have correct title, correct it.

To make the right decision, you need to know the most common ways to own. How real property is titled determines who inherits and how they inherit. Options to own and the consequences follows:

Sole Ownership

Sole Ownership is when a single individual owns the property alone. It’s the simplest form of ownership. It gives the owner complete control over the property. But on the death of the owner, ownership transfers through probate court. Who will inherit is identified in the owner’s will or, if no will, by California law that determines who is the next of kin.

Revocable Transfer on Death Deed

Revocable Transfer on Death Deed is an alternative to owning for the sole owner. The sole owner has a deed prepared, but this deed does not change owners. Instead, it names persons to inherit on the death of the owner. The major drawback it is hard for the heirs obtain title insurance for a period of three years after death. Another problem is the deed is recorded with the county and becomes part of the public record, available for all to see.

Joint Tenancy

Joint Tenancy is when two or more individuals own the property together with equal rights to the property (joint tenants). If one owner dies, their share of the property automatically transfers to the surviving owner without going through probate. But probate is not avoided on the death of the surviving owner, and title transfers are the same as sole ownership (by will or by California law).

Tenants in Common

Tenants in Common is when two or more individuals own the property together, but unlike joint tenancy, they may have unequal shares. When an owner dies, their share of the property passes to their heirs through probate. Who inherits is determined by will or by California law.

Community Property with the Right of Survivorship

Community Property with Right of Survivorship: is similar to joint tenancy but is only for married couples and registered domestic partners. This title has the added benefit that when one spouse dies, the survivor receives a step-up in basis. This step-up can substantially reduce capital gains tax if the survivor sells the home. But probate and who inherits is once again a problem on the death of the survivor.

Revocable Trusts

Revocable Trusts: Transferring your home into a trust avoids probate and determines who inherits the house. Trusts can defer distribution for minors, have contingency heirs, and are cost-effective. The trust must own the home by deed from the owners to the owners’ trust. Another problem of a trust is its complexity.

Sum it Up

How you own real property in California at first seems straightforward. And it is until an owner dies. Sole owners and tenants in common transfer through probate. Joint tenants and married couples owning as community property with the right of survivorship defer probate on the first owner’s death. But on the death of a survivor, probate is required. The only options that avoid probate completely are revocable transfer on death deeds and trusts.

We provide the services to avoid probate of your home on your death. To do this, we prepare deeds to add a spouse, revocable transfer on death deeds and trusts. For specific answers for your particular siutation, call 714-846-2888 or email