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By: Scott Grossman on July 9th, 2017

The Many Ways of Owning Property in California

Owning Property Can Only Be Through Separate or Concurrent Ownership.

In a California probate, one fundamental question that arises at the very beginning of each process is, who owns what such as assets or property. However, it is not sufficient to list the property composing the decedent’s estate, but it is also necessary to determine how the property is owned by separate or concurrent ownership.

What is Separate Ownership?

Separate ownership of property means that one sole person enjoys the benefits of the property and is responsible for its burdens, such as mortgage payments and taxes. A person cannot own a house separately if someone else makes the monthly mortgage payments, or if the house’s deed mentions another person.

The sole owner may dispose of separate property in a will to anyone he or she chooses. However, if the owner dies without a will, the property will go to heirs under intestate succession rules.

In the case of a married couple or domestic partner, one spouse or partner can own separate property. Which is usually:

  • Property acquired prior to marriage;
  • Property received by gift or inheritance;
  • Or any property declared under a written contract to be separate.

What is Concurrent Ownership?

Concurrent ownership in California is ownership of property by two or more people, usually falling under the following categories:

  • Tenancy in Common
  • Joint Tenancy
  • Community Property
  • Community Property with Right of Survivorship
  • Life Tenancy

Each one of these classifications of concurrent ownership needs to be detailed separately, but it is important to note that the community property form only applies to decedents who were married or registered to domestic partnership at the time of death.

If the decedent’s will leaves all of his or her separate property to a spouse or partner, the elaborate rules of calculating the share of community property going to the surviving spouse or partner become irrelevant. In this case, the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse.

Talk to San Diego probate attorney Scott Grossman about your situation and any questions you might have. Call us at (888) 443-6590 for your FREE 30-minute telephone consultation.