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Court reverses joint tenancy interest ruling

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a finding that a mother and her daughter and son-in-law each held a one-half joint tenancy in a property, finding the parties actually held one-third undivided interest as joint tenants.

In Janice and Burdette Ramer v. Betty Smith, No. 57A04-0804-CV-202, Betty and Richard Smith executed a warranty deed conveying a tract of land to Betty's daughter, Janice, and her husband, Burdette Ramer, who had begun constructing a home on the land with the help of Richard. After some problems with the conveyance, the parties executed a second warranty deed, with the Smiths conveying a 16.99 acre tract of the property and the Ramers conveying the original 6.60 tract of land conveyed in the first deed to all four individuals, creating a 23.59 acre tract. The granting clause of the second deed read: "RICHARD W. SMITH and BETTY J. SMITH, husband and wife, and BURDETTE RAMER and JANICE RAMER, husband and wife ... Conveys and warrants to: RICHARD W. SMITH, BETTY J. SMITH, BURDETTE RAMER, and JANICE RAMER, as Joint Tenants With right [sic] of Survivorship ...."

Richard died four years later, and Betty filed a petition for partition of the 23 acre tract. The trial court concluded the second deed conveyed a one-half joint tenancy interest to the Ramers, which they held as tenants by the entireties, and Betty was entitled to one-half. The trial court valued the land at nearly $310,000, with the Ramers' house valued at $185,400. The trial court appointed a commissioner to sell the property at public sale because the property can't be divided into equal shares of value without physically dividing the residence.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, finding instead the parties had one-third undivided interest as joint tenants.

"In addition, the phrase 'with right of survivorship,' the placement of the names in a list implying equal treatment, and the omission of the phrase 'husband and wife' from the grantee clause after having been used in the grantor clause all indicate intent to create a joint tenancy," wrote Judge Margret Robb.

The appellate court also affirmed the Ramers weren't entitled to contribution for value added to the property. The Smiths had contributed to the value of the property by giving the Ramers a 6-acre tract of land, and Richard had helped excavate the land for construction of their home, wrote the judge. In addition, when joint tenancy is created, each tenant acquires an equal right to share in the use and enjoyment of the land during their lives and are entitled to an equal share upon partition, wrote Judge Robb.

Finally, the appellate court remanded to the trial court to determine the proper method of partitioning the property because now it is at least mathematically possible to divide the property while leaving the residence intact, she wrote.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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