Santa Ana, CA asked in Estate Planning, Family Law and Real Estate Law for California

Q: I have questions regarding Interspousal Transfer Grant Deeds?

Me and my dad recently purchased a home. He is married to someone who is not my biological mother. During the signing of papers they asked that she sign a paper acknowledging that she was not going to be in the title of the home, therefore establishing a valid joint tenancy between my father and I. I want to help pay down the mortgage of the home. However, i do not want to invest money into something that might not be mine completely in the eyes of the law if my father were to pass, nor do i want to deal with any struggles in court fighting with his spouse to obtain full shares of the home. Im confused as to how this works.

1 Lawyer Answer
Julie King
Julie King
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Monterey, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: "Joint tenancy" means the last one to survive takes all of the property. In other words, if your father dies first, you get 100% of the property, but if you die first, your father gets 100% of the property regardless of what a Will or Trust may

say. You should be aware that a joint tenancy can be automatically converted into a "tenancy in common" if your father or you give away any ownership rights or place his or your half into a trust (which is frequently done.) That wouldn't be the case if the property was owned by two people who were married. They can put their property into their trust and it does not automatically convert to a tenancy in common. In a tenancy in common, there is no right of survivorship (i.e., no last survivor takes all.) Each owner in a tenancy in common can do whatever they want with their half of the real estate. So, for example, you could sell your half interest to a sibling or a stranger, and the property would still be in tenancy in common with your father. As to the document your step-mother signed, no lawyer can comment on that without knowing what that document said. It's possible she gave up all community property rights to the property, but that's just a guess. All the best to you!

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