Common Ways to Hold Title

Title to real property in California may be held by individuals, either in Sole Ownership or Co-Ownership. Co-Ownership of real property occurs when title is held by two or more persons. There are several variations as to how title may be held. The following brief summarizes eight of the more common examples of Sole Ownership and Co-Ownership.



A Single Man/Woman – A man or woman who has never been legally married.


An Unmarried Man/Woman – A man or woman, who, having been married, is legally divorced.


A Married Man/Woman, as His/Her Sole and Separate Property – When a married man or woman wishes to acquire title in his/her name alone, the spouse must consent, by quit claim deed or otherwise to the transfer, thereby relinquishing all right, title and interest to the property.


Community Property – The California Civil Code defines community property as the property acquired by husband and wife, during marriage, when not acquired as separate property. Real property conveyed to a married person is presumed to be community property, unless otherwise stated. Under community property, both spouses have the right to dispose of one half of the property by will, but if without a will, the property goes to the surviving spouse without administration. If a spouse exercises his/her right to dispose of one half, that half is subject to administration in the estate.


Joint Tenancy – A joint tenancy estate is defined in the Civil Code as: “A joint interest is one property owned by two or more persons in equal shares, by a title created by a single will or transfer to joint tenancy.” A chief characteristic of joint tenancy property is the right of survivorship. When a joint tenant dies, title to the property vests in the surviving joint tenant(s). Therefore, joint tenancy property is not subject to disposition by will.


Tenancy in Common – Under tenancy in common, the co-owners own undivided interests, but unlike joint tenancy, these interests need not be equal in quantity or duration, and may arrive at different times. There is no right of survivorship; each tenant owns an interest which, on his/her death, vests in his/her heirs or devises.


Trust – Title to real property in California may be held in a title holding trust. The trust holds legal and equitable title to the real estate. The trustee holds title for the benefit of the trustor/beneficiary, who retains all the management rights and responsibilities.


Community Property with Right of Survivorship – Property of a husband and wife when declared in the transfer document to be community property with the right of survivorship and which may be accepted in writing on the face of the document by a statement signed or initialed by the grantees, shall, upon the death of one of the spouses, pass to the survivor, without administration, subject to the same procedures as property held in joint tenancy.

* The preceding summaries are a few of the most common ways to hold title to real property in California and are provided for information purposes only. For a comprehensive understanding of legal/tax consequences, appropriate consultation is recommended.