Taylor v. Canterbury

92 P.3d 961 (Colo. 2004)

 

RULE:

A joint tenant might unilaterally eliminate the survivorship element of the ownership rights, and by doing so, eliminate his own survivorship rights as well. Stated otherwise, a joint tenant had the absolute right to terminate a joint tenancy unilaterally.

FACTS:

The grantor executed a warranty deed conveying the subject property from himself as sole owner to himself and the tenant as joint tenants. After six years, he executed and recorded a quitclaim intented to create a tenancy in common and to sever the joint tenancy. When the grantor died, appellant tenant filed an action to quiet the title to the property to herself as surviving joint tenant and to set aside the second conveyance. The trial court held that the rights of the appellant as joint tenant were fixed at the time of the creation of the joint tenancy and that the second conveyance was ineffective. The appellate court affirmed the trial court, holding that a joint tenant could not sever a joint tenancy by conveying title back to the two individuals as tenants in common. The state supreme court reversed the  appellate court's judgment and returned the action to the appellate court for remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

ISSUE:

Could one joint tenant extinguish a joint tenancy by conveying his interest in real property back to himself as a tenant in common?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Joint tenancies were no longer the presumptive form of concurrent ownership of real property. Rather, tenancies in common were favored and the very existence of the joint tenancy was circumscribed by statute. To establish a joint tenancy in Colorado, there should only be specific language evidencing the intent to create a joint tenancy. The four unities have been abolished by statute. A tenant who unilaterally conveyed property back to himself with the intention of creating a tenancy in common severed the joint tenancy.

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