In California, property can be legally held in a number of forms, including tenants in common and joint tenancy. Property can even be held in a combination of forms. Some of forms have the attached right of survivorship, while others do not.
A tenancy in common is a form of real property ownership where two or more people share a property. Unlike, joint tenancy tenants in common do not need to own equal shares of the property. Thus, if a house has three owners, then Owner A can own 20%, Owner B can own 30% and Owner C can own 50%.
In California, properties do not need to be held in one form only. Hence, some co-owners may hold the property as joint tenants while the other co-owners hold tenants in common.
For example, A, B, and C own Building One. A and B are joint tenants, and they are tenants in common with C. Thus, if A dies first, then her share will go to B. However, if C dies, C’s share will pass in the manner specified by her will.
Tenants in common do not have the right of survivorship. If a tenant in common dies, then her share of the property will pass as her will states. If she does not have a will, then it will go to probate per intestacy rules. Unlike joint tenancy, the surviving tenants in common will not automatically get a share of the deceased’s interest.
A tenancy in common can be easily terminated. A tenant merely needs to sell, give, or devise her share to another. The consent of the other co-tenants is not necessarily even if the new co-tenant is unfriendly.
A California real estate lawyer can advise you which form of ownership is appropriate for you. Also, he can help you draft the ownership contract such that you do not end up with a despicable co-tenant or accidentally leaving your property to the wrong person.