Property I, Pages 348–350

Mann v. Bradley

Supreme Court of Colorado, 1975

Facts:

Defendant and his wife owned a house and divorced. The divorce property settlement stipulated that the property "shall remain in the joint names of the parties". Mrs. Mann continued to live there with her children until her death. Defendant then informed his children that the home belonged to him by virtue of the right of survivorship in the joint tenancy ownership. Plaintiff then filed an action to quiet tile.

Procedural History:

District court entered judgment quieting title in the children as tenants in common in fee simple of an undivided one-half interest in the residence. Appellate court affirmed.

Issue:

Did the provisions effectuate a termination of a joint tenancy and convert it into a tenancy in common?

Plaintiff's Argument:

[T]he divorce property settlement agreement had the legal effect of converting the joint tenancy into a tenancy in common with the result that Mrs. Mann's interest passed to the children upon her death.

Defendant's Argument:

The provisions of the agreement demonstrate a clear intent that the property remain in join tenancy until the occurrence of one of the three contingencies. Since none of these contingencies occurred prior to Mrs. Mann's death, . . . the property passed to [defendant] by right of survivorship.

Rule:

A joint tenancy may be terminated by mutual assent.

Reasoning:

The language in the agreement in consistent with how a tenancy in common works, which is the most logically expected. It is hard to see how two people in a divorce would have intentionally left the bulk of their estates to the other.

Holding:

Yes, the joint tenancy was mutually terminated and converted into a tenancy in common. Affirmed.

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