My wife and I purchased a home in Fl. for her Dad and step mom to live in. We had the Deed written as “Joint tenants with full rights of survivorship”. Three yrs. later they decided to move out of the home into a smaller home that we also purchased for them. We then rented out home # 1 to cover expenses. Eight years later My father in law passed and his wife moved out of state. The son of my step Mother in law, is now claiming his interest in the property. We were never notified that anyone was being added to the deed, nor did we think anyone could be. Public record shows no one has been added to date. The lawyer representing the son claims its been prepared but not recorded yet. Where do we stand?
I've changed the category to Real Estate since it doesn't appear that the property is part of your father-in-law's estate. You neglected to mention specifically who is listed on the deed as JTROS, but yes, a joint tenant can freely transfer his or her interest to another person. Such a transfer would sever the joint tenancy as between the recipient of the interest and the other joint tenants, creating a tenancy in common between them. The ownership interest transferred to the tenant in common is equal to the transferring joint tenant's share, which is usually proportional to that tenant's contribution to the purchase. If stepmother-in-law did not contribute to the purchase, it may be possible to argue that the interest transferred is actually a nullity and therefore her son doesn't own any real interest. The viability of this legal theory is dependent on the language in the deed and a number of other factors, so I encourage you to consult with a real estate attorney in your area to discuss your options in greater detail.
My comments are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship, are not confidential, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Proper legal advice can only be given by an attorney who agrees to represent you, who reviews the facts of your specific case, who does not have a conflict of interest preventing the representation, and who is licensed as an attorney in the state where the law applies.
While a co-owner can only transfer what he or she owns, regrettably, as even a slight difference in wording and facts can impact the interests in real property, you will need to bring your deed and anything the lawyer for the son of a step-mom sent you, to a lawyer for review, if you want an accurate determination of your and his rights. The step-mom could transfer her interest, but that may not convert it to a tenancy in common as the other lawyer stated. Regardless, absent some type of partnership agreement as to the rights of co-owners (including obligations to pay expenses and share rental income) the co-ownership with right of survivorship doesn't preclude the new co-owner from pursuing rights arising from his partial ownership, including a right to force a sale during the parties' lifetime. If he has a lawyer, you'll need your own to protect you from what the plans he is making that led him to hire an attorney.
The information provided does not identify the parties who are on the deed as joint tenants with right of survivorship. However, the parties to such a deed can transfer their respective share of the property. Once such a transfer happens, then the ownership interest is no longer "with right of survivorship" but rather "tenants in common" with NO survivorship interest. Unless the son of your step mother-in-law was already on the deed, he cannot now add himself to it. Only those who are already on the deed can add others. But, it would take ALL of the current owners agreement and signatures to add an additional owner.
This answer contains general information about legal matters. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter, you should consult your attorney or other professional legal services provider.
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