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Each joint tenant has the right to convey his or her separate estate by way of gift or otherwise without the knowledge or consent of the other joint tenant and to thereby terminate the joint tenancy. If a joint tenant conveys to a stranger and that person reconveys to the same tenant, then no revival of the joint tenancy occurs because the unities are destroyed. The former joint tenants become tenants in common.
Mr. and Mrs. Riddle purchased property as joint tenants. Mrs. Riddle, several months prior to her death, went to her attorney and prepared a deed where she conveyed the subject property to herself as a tenant in common. Afterwards, she opted to dispose half of her undivided interest over the property through her will. The trial court refused her plan and held that the property remains to be in joint tenancy, thus vesting ownership with Mr. Riddle. Mrs. Riddle’s executrix appealed from the said order.
Can a tenant can unilaterally sever the joint tenancy through the conveyance of the property to herself as a tenant in common?
The court held that it is an indisputable right of each joint tenant to convey his or her separate property to another person without the knowledge nor consent of the other, thereby terminating the joint tenancy. This may be done without the use of an intermediary device.