Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Alabama

I got a letter titled Warranty Deed to Establish Right of Suvivorship papers in mail reference my mother property who passed away and it says: "John Doe tells me that you are aware that when your mother conveyed the property to you and your siblings, it was not conveyed with right of survivorship". Can you please tell me what that means because there is also are Warrany Deed with Joint Survivorship papers I have to sign that will go to Probate Judge and afraid I am giving up something?

Asked on 2/19/11, 10:51 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

William Pfeifer Pfeifer LLC

Here is my understanding of your situation. When your mother passed away, she left each of her children her land as tenants in common. What this means is that each of you owns a percentage of the property, and that upon your death your ownership of the property will pass to your heirs (your spouse, children, or the person you designate in your will).

Whoever sent you the letter is wanting to change the property from tenants in common to joint tenants with right of survivorship. What this means is that if one of you dies, your share of the property will automatically go to the other siblings. Thus, if you were to die owning the property as a joint tenant with right of survivorship, then when you die your brothers and sisters own your share of the property rather than the person you designate in your will.

So, under the scenario they propose, the possible gain to you is that you could wind up owning the entire property if you outlive all of your siblings. The possible loss to you is that if you die before them, your siblings get your share of the property rather than your wife or children. Whether this is a good decision in your situation simply depends on the specific facts of your situation.

I would recommend that you consult a lawyer to discuss whether this change in ownership is in your best interests. It does not appear to negatively affect you directly, but it would take away your ability to control what happens to your share of the property after your death.

Good luck to you. If we can be of assistance, please let me know.

William L. Pfeifer, Jr.

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Answered on 2/20/11, 6:49 am
William Nolan Nolan Elder Law LLC

I might add that any probate lawyer should consult with you for no more than $500. What possible risks might there be to signing this document? Might those risks cost you far more than the $500 you might spend visiting with a lawyer for advice? This is exactly the type of situation that calls for a face to face meeting with an attorney. Monday morning start calling lawyers in your area and set up an appointment immediately. While general advice is good, specific advice in this situation is required.

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Answered on 2/20/11, 1:06 pm

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