The name on the deed of property in California is very important.  If there is only one person who owns the property and that person is not married, then ownership is very clear.  However, if the person who is on the deed is married and the spouse’s name is not on the deed, then complications can occur.  Most complications can be avoided if there is a will and a trust, however only a Trust avoids Probate in California.  If two or more people are listed on the deed, they are usually listed as ‘joint tenants’, ‘tenants in common’ or ‘community property with rights of survivorship’.  These terms are very important and have different meanings:

  1. If the people on the deed are listed as ‘joint tenants’, this means that if one person passes away, the others maintain ownership & simply have to remove the deceased from the deed.
  2. If the people on the deed are listed as ‘tenants in common’, this means that if one person passes away, then the assets would be divided between the heirs of the deceased as well as the other ‘tenants in common’.  This would have implications for a Probate.
  3. If the people were married and the property is listed as ‘community property with rights of survivorship‘ then the property would transfer to the survivor upon death.

The distribution of assets is affected by how the name or names are listed on the deed.  Often people will put one name on the deed because that person has a better credit rating than another.  At other times, people will put the names on the deed of children or heirs.  There are repercussions as to the choice of who is listed on the deed and how they are listed.

The best option is to have a consultation with an Estate Planning Attorney to determine your legal rights and your legal options.  By doing this you will be able to make an informed decision as to how you wish your assets to be handled upon death and you will avoid errors that may be costly.

For more information on Probate, Wills or Living Trusts, call Legal Action Workshop @ 800-HELP-444 (800-435-7444) or visit our website .

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