How Do You Sever A Joint Tenancy In Florida?
A joint tenancy is a method whereby two or more people hold an undivided interest in a real or personal property. The idea behind joint tenancy is that when one co-tenant dies, the remaining co-tenants continue as owners of the undivided whole.
In other words, the co-tenants have “survivorship” rights in the property itself. This is critical because it means the deceased co-tenant’s share does not pass as part of their probate estate. If the property is held as tenants in common, in contrast, then each owner has a separate share of the property that may pass through their probate estate.
A joint tenancy can be severed in a number of ways. One way is for a joint tenant to convey their interest to a third party, either by sale or gift. The act of conveyance severs the joint tenancy and converts the property’s ownership to a tenancy in common.
Iowa Courts Hold Trust, Warranty Deed Proved Deceased Woman’s “Intent” to End Joint Tenancy
Florida law does not require you to obtain the consent of the other joint tenants to sever the joint tenancy. But to avoid possible litigation down the line, it is sensible to make your intentions clear so as to avoid any possible misunderstandings.
A recent probate case from Iowa, Grout v. Sickels, provides a cautionary example. This case centered on a 98-year-old woman who died in 2019. The decedent was a widow who had no children. She was also a successful businesswoman who owned a number of rental properties.
The decedent became close with one of her renters. At one point, the decedent purchased a lakeside house and decided to hold the property as joint tenants with a renter. According to the renter, the decedent wanted to “give me something” without having to change her existing will.
Sometime later, the decedent suffered a stroke. Her nephew came to Iowa to care for her. While undergoing rehabilitation, the decedent signed a number of estate planning documents, including a trust and a warranty deed conveying her “undivided interest” in the lakeside property to the trust for $1.
After the decedent’s passing, the renter argued the joint tenancy was still in effect, and as the survivor he now owned the lakeside property outright. The decedent’s estate disagreed. The nephew, acting as personal representative for the estate, argued the warranty deed effectively severed the joint tenancy. He asked the court to order a partition and sale of the property. And since the decedent effectively made all of the financial contributions to the purchase and maintenance of the property, the nephew argued the estate should receive all of the proceeds.
The Iowa courts agreed with the estate’s position. The Iowa Court of Appeals, affirming an earlier ruling from a trial judge, said the trust and warranty deed were sufficient proof of the decedent’s “intent” to sever the joint tenancy. Indeed, there was reason to make such a deed if the goal had been to preserve the joint tenancy or otherwise keep the property out of probate.
Contact Florida Trust Litigation Lawyer Mark R. Manceri Today
If you are involved in a potential dispute involving a loved one’s trust or estate, it is important to seek out practical legal advice before taking any action. Contact the Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation attorneys at Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.