Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Where the interest held is a joint life estate with dual contingent remainders, the principles governing ordinary joint tenancies are not controlling. Where the interest held is not an ordinary joint tenancy, but instead a joint life estate with dual contingent remainders, the right of survivorship cannot be affected by a conveyance of the life estate. This a completely different interest from the joint tenancy of the common law. A true joint tenant could sever the joint tenancy by conveying his interest to a third party and thus defeat the survivorship. Since a contingent remainder is indestructible, however, the right of survivorship in a joint account cannot be destroyed by "severance." A contingent remainder cannot be destroyed by any act by the holder of the preceding life estate.
In 1977, certain commercial property in Macomb County was conveyed to Carol Allen and Helen Albro as joint tenants with full rights of survivorship. In 1987, Allen entered into a purchase agreement with Steven Kinzer, in which she agreed to convey her interest in the property to Kinzer by quitclaim deed. Consequently, Albro instituted an action to enjoin sale of Allen’s interest. Both Albro and Kinzer filed motions for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(8). The trial court granted summary disposition in favor of Albro and permanently enjoined Allen and Kinzer from completing the pending sale. According to the trial court, where property stood in the name of joint tenants with the right of survivorship, neither party may transfer title to the premises and deprive the other of such right of survivorship. The court found that the sale of Allen's interest would create a tenancy in common and necessarily deprive Albro of her right of survivorship. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that by operation of law, any alienation would convert the joint life estate to a tenancy in common, thereby defeating the survivorship element of the joint life estate. Kinzer appealed, contending that the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that Allen could not transfer her interest in the joint life estate.
Under the circumstances, could Allen transfer her interest in the joint life estate even without the consent of the cotenant?
The Court reversed the portion of the decision, which precluded transfer of Allen’s interest in the joint life estate. According to the Court, the Court of Appeals erred when it applied the rules governing ordinary joint tenancies and concluded that by operation of law, any alienation converted the joint life estate to a tenancy in common and defeated survivorship. The Court held that the interest conveyed to Allen and Albro was a joint life estate with dual contingent remainders, which could not be destroyed by any act of the other. Allen as a joint tenant with full rights of survivorship could convey or partition the life estate without the consent of the cotenant and without destroying the cotenant's contingent remainder.