What are the different ways homeowners hold title to their property in California? Today I’m joined by Denae Budde of Budde Law Group to answer this question. If your property isn’t vested the right way, it can cost you a lot of time and money down the road. 

The default way to hold title is tenant in common, which can apply to couples, family members, or friends. You can also hold title as joint tenants—you don’t have to be married. Community property would be for married couples, though. 

Another way to hold title is known as joint tenants with right of survivorship. With this type of ownership, if a husband and wife buy a property and hold it as a community property, when one spouse dies, the other inherits the entirety of the property and they get the step-up in tax basis to that point in time.

“Don’t save on the short end, because it will cost you on the long end.” 

One situation I see happen a lot is homebuyers getting to the closing table, but once they’re presented with the document asking them how they want to vest the property, they don’t know what to pick because this is the first time they’ve seen such a document. What can you do to prepare yourself for this? 

You can start by speaking with an estate planning attorney, a family planning attorney, or a real estate attorney and exploring your options. If you don’t specify, the default title will be joint tenants in common. 

Some people elect to write their own deeds in order to save money in the short term, but doing this brings certain risks. If you don’t do it properly, someone’s interest can get left out. Also, if you’re not specific in your wording, title will default to right of survivorship. From a title insurance perspective, this isn’t considered an insured deed, either. 

If you’re not sure how you’re holding the title to your property, you can check by going online and getting the basic information for the recorded document, and then going to the recorder’s office and getting a copy of the deed. That will show how you took the title. 

The bottom line is this: Don’t save on the short end, because it will cost you on the long end. 

If you have any more questions about this topic or you’d like to get in touch with Denae, you can give her a call at (925) 939-3880 or email her at dbudde@blglegal.net

As always, if you have any other real estate questions for me, feel free to call or email me as well. I’d love to help you.