Common Methods of Holding Title to Real Estate in California

When purchasing real property in California, whether commercial or residential, the buyer has a choice regarding how they decide to hold title to the property. Below are some of the common methods of holding title.

Sole Ownership

This refers to sole ownership by one person or entity. This typically refers to property owned by a single man or woman. However, it can also refer to a married man or woman as their sole and separate property.

Community Property

When a married person takes title to property in California, the property is presumed to be community property, unless the vesting states otherwise. In this instance, each spouse has the ability to dispose of his or her 50% ownership interest by will.

Community Property with Right of Survivorship

This is similar to #2 above. However, if the vesting contains a right to survivorship, then upon the death of one of the spouses their 50% share would pass to the surviving spouse.

Joint Tenancy

Joint tenancies are properties owned by two or more persons and contain the right of survivorship. Therefore, when one of the joint tenants dies, the entire title to the property passes to the remaining joint tenants, and not the heirs of the deceased joint tenant.

Tenancies in Common

Tenancies in common involve two or more persons that own the property in fractional interests that may have arisen at different times. The shares do not have to be equal. Each tenant in common has the ability to sell, lease, encumber or dispose of their share of the property.

Corporations or Partnership

Generally speaking a corporation or partnership is allowed to hold title to property in the name of the corporation or the partnership. The rights of the parties are determined by the corporation or partnership agreements.


A Trust is a type of legal agreement where title to the property is held by a trustee acting on behalf of the Trust. The trustee holds and manages the property for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the Trust.

Depending on which method of holding title you use, it will trigger various tax and/or legal consequences, for example, your right to possession of the property, your rights to transfer or sell the property, a creditor’s ability to take your property and/or what happens to your interest in the property when you die. Therefore, it is important to talk to an attorney to understand the various legal ramifications of how you hold title to the property and how to create the proper vesting to meet your objectives. Click here if you’d like to set up a one-on-one consultation with Steve Blake to discuss your legal issue in depth.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Blake Law Firm. No representations are made about the accuracy of the information contained in this blog post and this blog post should not be used as a substitute for seeking the advice of a licensed attorney.

Steve Blake