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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. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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