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Considering alternatives to tenancy in common

Some people in California may put off doing their estate planning. When they finally get around to making a will, they might simply write that they want their assets divided equally between their heirs. This can create a problem if the person owns a piece of property such as a ranch or a home. The heirs will become tenants in common. The type of ownership means that all owners must unanimously agree about what they want to do with the property.

If two owners have incompatible wishes for the property, a stalemate ensues, and a legal remedy might be the only solution. A judge can order the property to be sold. The property may also be divided up, but one owner can sue over partition. In addition to causing conflict between family members, a tenancy in common can lead to the loss of the property altogether.

Estate planning that takes a more careful look at a person's own desires for the property and at heirs' needs may prevent this. For example, if the property is a family-owned ranch, then estate planning might include planning for a smooth succession and change in ownership.

In a case like this one, if a person has more than one child, the property might go to only one of them. The person who is doing the estate planning might want to discuss the rationale behind the planning with their family so that there are fewer misunderstandings. For example, one of the children may be uninterested in running a ranch and might even have their own business. The person creating the estate plan may want to discuss their options with an attorney because there might be approaches that allow the other children to see some profit from the family ranch even if they do not share tenancy in common.

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