Berkeley & East Bay Area Real Estate Services For Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington, Oakland and Piedmont

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The GRUBB Co. | Direct: 510.652-2133 ex. 444 | Office: 510.652.2133 | Email:


Sole Ownership

This is when one person holds title in their name alone. You don't have to be single to have sole ownership. Legally, this is known as ownership in severalty. If you are married and wish to take sole ownership, your spouse will need to sign a quitclaim deed giving up any ownership interest in the property. When a sole owner dies, his or her property is subject to the probate courts or the owner's trust.

Tenants in Common

This method is used when two or more people take title to a piece of property. This is a common method of holding title when the people involved are not married to each other. Tenants in common own a specified interest in the property. The interest can, and often is, unequal. The major advantage of this form of ownership is that each owner can sell or will his interest to whomever he or she wishes. The disadvantages of tenancy in common begin with the property being subject to probate court costs and delays if one of the deceased owners does not have a trust. Another disadvantage is that the remaining tenants could end up owning property with a stranger.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Surviorship

This form of title has some special conditions. First, all co-owners must take title at the same time. Second, all co-owners have equal shares. The surviving co-owner winds up owning the entire property. After a joint tenant dies, the surviving joint tenant(s) receives the deceased's share. The deceased's will has no effect on joint tenancy property. The big advantage to this is that the property does not go through probate, thereby avoiding cost and delays. To clear the title usually involves recording an affidavit of survivorship and a certified copy of the death certificate.
When joint tenancy is not held by a husband and wife, a joint tenant can sell or give his property interest away without permission of the other tenant.

Community Property

This option is available to husbands and wives only in community property states. California is a community property state. Each spouse owns half the property and can pass it on by will either to the surviving spouse or someone else.
A special advantage to community property title is that when willed to a surviving spouse, a new stepped-up basis at market value is assigned on the date of death. This stepped-up basis advantage is also available to husbands and wives holding joint tenancy titles in community property states. It requires spouse to acknowledge in writing to each other that their joint tenancy property is also community property.

Living Trust

The living trust has become increasingly popular because property in a revocable living trust is not subject to the costs and delays of probate. Another advantage of the living trust is that court challenges are almost impossible, unlike the challenges to wills.
All kinds of property can be held in living trust, not just real estate. A revocable living trust allows these assets to be bought, sold and financed normally.

Ways of Holding Title
How you decide to hold title is very important. You should consult an attorney to determine the most advantageous form of ownership for your particular situation.

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