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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.