The California Land Title Association (CLTA) advises those purchasing real property to give careful consideration to the manner in which title will be held Buyers may wish to consult legal counsel to determine the most advantageous form of ownership for their particular situation, especially in cases of multiple owners of a single property.
The CLTA has provided the following definitions of common vesting as an informational overview.
Review the comments, particularly, pertaining to WILLs
1. Community Property:
A form of vesting title to property owned by husband and wife during their marriage which they intend to own together. Community property is distinguished from separate property, which is property acquired before marriage, by separate gift or bequest, after legal separation, or which is agreed to be owned only by one spouse. In California, real property conveyed to a married man or woman is presumed to be community property, unless otherwise stated. Since all such property is owned equally, husband and wife must sign all agreements and documents of transfer.
****Under community property, either spouse has the right to dispose of one half of the community property, including transfers by will.*****
2. Joint Tenancy:
A form of vesting title to property owned by two or more persons, who may or may not be married, in equal interest, ***subject to the right of survivorship in the surviving joint tenant(s)***. Title must have been acquired at the same time, by the same conveyance, and the document must expressly declare the intention to create a joint tenancy estate. When a joint tenant dies, title to the property is automatically conveyed by operation of law to the surviving joint tenant(s). Therefore, *****joint tenancy property is**** not subject to disposition by will.*****
As these choices may have financial and legal ramifications, I advise that any critical decision, such as this, should be directed to an attorney. A small fee to spend to protect your interst later.
Claudia's post provides a clear reason why some may not be choosing Joint Tenancy - primarily that the survivor(s) take title of the others upon their passing.
Perhaps one of the Joint Tenants is a non-family member who paid a 20% deposit in order for all to purchase a property. You can see where an inequity can be created.
One more note: Our property is held in a Revocable Living Trust.
When I was married we used a family trust to avoid any probate issues. California is a community property state and many married people use the community property manner of holding title. As a Realtor I cannot give legal advice. It would be best to talk to your attorney or CPA.
The links in Steve's post are good resources to help you decide.
As agents we are not really allowed to advise you on this issue. You would be best served by consulting an attorney for your specific situation. It is important you understand the benefits and consequences of each vesting type. Your friends situations will not be the same as yours, so don't follow the crowd.
Marcie Sands, REALTOR
Simply The Best Real Estate Co., Inc.
These two legal posts may help you to decide:
"California is a community property state, but what does that mean?"
"The Impact Of Joint Ownership Of Property"
Personally, we chose Community Property with Right Of Survivorship.