I have a property in California. The tile is Joint Tenancy and is between me and my brother. I just found out that my brother quit-claim the property to a trust in which him and his wife are trustee. My brother never paid a cent into the property. Is there anything I can do legally to undo the title change? What options do I have?
3 Answers from Attorneys
You don't have anything to worry about with what your brother has done, and you have no right to do anything anyway. When two owners share title, as joint tenants or tenants in common, either one can transfer their share to anyone else, whether in trust or not, but no matter how the deed is worded, it does not transfer anyone elses share. So your share remains yours, in your name, and outside the trust. It also appears that because the transfer was to a trust for the benefit of your brother and his spouse, the joint tenancy survives rather than being severed and converted into a tenancy in common. If that is an important issue for you, however, you will need to have someone do some paid research to verify it.
I agree with Mr. McCormick. You now co-own property with your brother's trust in a tenancy in common. California case law is clear that one co-tenant can effect a severance of a joint tenancy.
Mr. Roach says he agrees with Mr. McCormick, but as I read their answers, they are in disagreement. Either the joint tenancy survives, as Mr. McCormick suggests, or it was severed, as Mr. Roach says, and converted into a tenancy in common. Based on the brief set of facts given, I'm inclined to think the joint tenancy has been severed. The former joint tenancy is now a tenancy in common. Nevertheless, (a) your 1/2 ownership interest remains intact, and (b) what he did is legal and you have no grounds (and no reason) to sue -- unless, of course, there were a separate agreement between the two of you forbidding severance of the joint tenancy, which is very unlikely. See Civil Code section 683.2 for some of the applicable law.
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