Property Titles Play an Important Role in the Estate Planning Process


When beginning the estate planning process, Pasadena estate planning attorneys recommend that you consider how you hold title to your assets. The way in which you hold the title to your real estate and other forms of property will affect who inherits the asset, as well as whether or not it will need to be a part of the probate process.

Sole ownership means that a property belongs to you alone, with no transfer-on-death designation. The distribution of this property must be addressed in your will and the property itself is considered a probate asset.

If your property is held as joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the property passes to the surviving joint tenant without being affected by your will. This is true even if you are not legally married to your co-owner. Property owned in this fashion is a non-probate asset.

California residents who are married or in a registered domestic partnership can hold a title as community property with right of survivorship. In this circumstance, the property passes directly to your spouse or domestic partner upon your death. It is not affected by the terms of your will. Like property owned as joint tenancy with right of survivorship, community property with right of survivorship is classified as a non-probate asset.

When property is owned as tenants-in-common, your interest passes to the beneficiary named in your will. This occurs regardless of whether you're in a marital relationship or domestic partnership with your co-owner. Like sole ownership property, property owned as tenants-in-common must go through the probate process.

If you were to die without a will, sole ownership or tenancy-in-common assets would be distributed according to California's intestate succession laws. Under these laws inheritance rights are determined by looking at the closest living relatives of the deceased. For example, if you are married, your spouse inherits all of your community property and one half of your separate property, with the remainder going to your children, parents, or siblings. If you are not married, your children inherit everything. If you are single with no children, your parents or siblings would inherit all of your assets.

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