Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Michigan

dad and daughter hold real estate deed JTWROS can dad sign over his share to new wife via quit claim deed

Asked on 10/21/13, 1:48 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Timothy Klisz Klisz Law Office, PLLC

Yes he can. I would be happy to draft it for you. Tim Klisz

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Answered on 10/21/13, 1:52 pm

Glenn Matecun Matecun, Thomas & Olson, PLC

This is actually a much more complicated question than it seems on its face.

First, as background, consider the two most common types of property ownership in Michigan: Tenants in common a (TIC) and joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWROS).

If a TIC owner dies, his interest in the property is passed to his heirs. Also, a TIC owner can convey his or her share of the property to another person.

JTWROS is different. If a JTWROS dies, his interest passes to the remaining owner or owners. Simply put, the last joint owner to die owns the entire property.

Here's where the complication comes in. A JTWROS is technically a joint life estate with dual contingent remainders. There is a Michigan Supreme Court case called Albro v. Allen, 434 Mich. 271 (1990), that holds that one JTWROS owner's rights cannot be destroyed by the act of the other owner.

So one owner's actions to try to deed his interest are ineffective. The Albro case held that the only interest that could be conveyed was the owner's "life estate", which is the right to own and possess the property during the owner's lifetime.

So let's go back to your case. We have Dad, Daughter and Stepmom. Dad and Daughter own property as JTWROS. Dad conveys his interest to Stepmom. The only interest Stepmom gets is a life estate based upon Dad's life. When Dad dies (assuming he dies first), the property reverts to Daughter. Stepmom has no further rights in the property.

So your question is whether Dad can sign over his interest to Stepmom. Technically, yes. But she doesn't get anything she can sell, and she loses her interest when Dad dies assuming Dad dies first.

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Answered on 10/21/13, 2:30 pm
Glenn Matecun Matecun, Thomas & Olson, PLC

Note that my assumption on the answer above was that Daughter does not want Stepmom to own the property. If Daughter wants to be owners with Stepmom, it can be done with Dad and Daughter signing the deed.

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Answered on 10/21/13, 2:33 pm

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