Now that you have located your deed, carefully read the deed to determine how you hold the property.

You should notice the name of the Grantor (the person who gifted you the property or the person you purchased the property from), and the name of the Grantee (the person or people who received the property in the transfer—you!). The deed should be notarized and have an official stamp from your county recorder’s office.

In California you may own property in the following ways:

  • Sole Ownership
  • Joint Tenancy
  • Tenancy in Common
  • Community Property with Right of Survivorship
  • Partnership or Business Entity

I recommend sitting down with an experienced attorney to make sure you own your property in a way that advances your estate planning goals. Until then, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Property owned by a single owner must go through probate upon the owner’s death unless there is a validly executed and recorded transfer on death deed.
  • Property owned in joint tenancy generally may not be left to a beneficiary by will or trust because each owner has “right of survivorship,” meaning they become the sole owner upon the other owner’s death.
  • Joint tenancy, while avoiding the need for probating the property upon a joint tenant’s death, leaves the property open to claims of creditors of any joint tenant.
  • Tenants in common only have control over their share of the property, not the entire property.
  • Spouses holding California real estate as separate property must have a will leaving the property to their spouse or else the spouse may end up owning only a portion of the property because the state probate code requires some of the separate property go to the deceased spouse’s living children or parents.

That concludes our series on Estate Planning for California Homeowners. Check back next week for more information about estate planning, asset protection and California real estate.

Happy planning!


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.