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In re Estate of Michael

Law Dictionary

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Property Law Keyed to Cribbet

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.421 Pa. 207, 218 A.2d 338 (1966)

Brief Fact Summary. A grant by deed in 1947 made by Joyce King of property known as “King Farm” was made to two couples as tenants by the entirety. The language of the deed after the two tenancies by the entirety was created included the words “with right of survivorship. The parties’ dispute centered on whether the couple’s respective one-half interests were held as tenants in common or as joint tenants.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The case law of this jurisdiction dictate that, when construing language in a deed, there must be a sufficiently clear expression of an intent to create a right of survivorship, because the law does not favor joint tenancies.

Facts. By deed in 1947, Joyce King conveyed property known as King Farm to Harry Michael and Bertha Michael, husband and wife, and Ford Michael (son of Harry and Bertha) and Helen Michael, husband and wife. After the grant to each respective couple the deed stated the couple’s interest was as tenants by the entirety. Then, after the second couple was mentioned, these words appeared: “with right of survivorship.” Harry Michael died prior to 1962 leaving to survive him his wife Bertha Michael and two sons, Ford Michael (one of the grantees) and Robert Michael, the Appellant. Bertha Michael died testate in 1963 and under her will Robert Michael was to take her interest in King Farm and Ford Michael, Appellee, was to receive $1,000 to balance the gift. The two sons Appellant Robert Michael and Appellee Ford Michael were appointed as executors of Bertha’s will. A dispute arose over what interest, if any, Bertha owned in King Farm which would pass to Robert Michael. Robert Michael argued t
hat the deed created a tenancy in common as between the two couples (which would create undivided interests in the land as to each couple owning one-half and the land could pass under Bertha’s will, creating a one-half interest in Robert Michael and a one-half interest in Ford Michael and wife). The argument of Ford Michael is that as between the two couples the land was owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship (which would operate to allow Ford Michael and wife, as survivors of both Harry Michael and Bertha Michael, to own the entire property alone). The lower court took the argument of Ford Michael to be correct and found that the 1947 deed conveyed the land to the two couples to hold as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Robert Michael appealed.

Issue. What is the proper characterization of the relationship created by the 1947 deed between the two couples?

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