What Exactly Does, Tenancy in Common, Mean in California?

Tenancy in common is one of the forms under which more than one person may own property under California law. Other forms of concurrent ownership give surviving owners an automatic right to inherit property if one of the owners dies. However, this is not the case for property held under tenancy in common rules. The tenants in common each have an undivided interest in the property. This means each of them owns a fractional share of the entire property, and their ownership does not automatically give them a right to inherit the portion of another tenant in common upon his or her death.

Can tenants in common own unequal shares of a property?

Suppose various co-tenants share a property unequally. All the tenants must sign a written document stating their respective shares.

Then, the ownership is presumed to be shared equally among the co-tenants.  One half each if there are two, or one third each if there are three, etc.

How to know “Tenancy in Common” rules apply?

Tenancy in common must be backed by ownership documents stating specifically that this is the form of ownership. It must mention the names of the various co-tenants, their respective shares (especially if unequal), and the words “tenants in common” or “tenancy in common.”

Moreover, and this is important, concurrently owned property (property held by more than one owner) that is not backed by a document stating specifically that the property is owned in joint tenancy or as community property, is presumed to be held as tenancy in common.

Do you still have questions regarding tenancy in common? We know this process can be confusing and difficult. Talk to San Diego estate planning and probate attorney Scott Grossman about your situation and the questions you have. Call our lawyers at (951) 683-3704 or (888) 443-6590 for your FREE 30-minute telephone consultation. Also, order our FREE book The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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