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In California, title may be held in sole ownership, or co-ownership. If it is the sole ownership of an individual, a common way to hold title may be as a “single man/woman”, an “unmarried man/woman” or a “married man/woman as his/her sole and separate property”. This choice depends on marital status, marital history, and the characterization of property determined by a married couple or registered domestic partners.
Common forms of co-ownership are in the form of community property, joint tenancy, or tenancy in common. The choice of co-ownership depends in part on survivorship rights, whether or not the co-owners are married/registered domestic partners entitled to community property rights, and whether or not the co-owners desire to hold equal interests in land or undivided interests.
Title to real property may also be held in trust. Whether property is in sole ownership or co-ownership, it may be transferred to a trust. This is even possible if several non-related parties own a property together. For example, if a newly developed property here in San Diego is acquired as an investment by three friends, with title as “John Smith, a single man as to an undivided 1/3 interest, John Doe, a single man as to an undivided 1/3 interest, and Jane Deer, a single woman as to an undivided 1/3 interest”, each party may transfer his/her own 1/3 interest to his/her own trust. That person’s interest, and the succession of their interest, will now be pursuant to the terms of their own trust.
The above mentioned forms of title are some of the common ways to hold title, however an explanation of each form of title should be sought before selecting that which is best for you. There are tax and legal consequences to the vesting of title. Please consult with your professional advisor when making this decision.
Christine Ellingsen is a Northern California native now practicing law as an estate planning attorney in Carmel Valley San Diego at the Barger Law Group, APC. She spent a year in New York working in the business sector before moving to Southern California to attend law school at the University of San Diego. She is happy to have started her law career in San Diego and to now call Encinitas home, where she keeps busy between exploring Coastal North County and training her new puppy.