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Palmer v. Flint

    Brief Fact Summary. The Federal Land Bank of Springfield (one of the Defendants) conveyed property to Nathan Palmer and his wife Alice Palmer (now Alice Flint the other Defendant) which contained the following language in the deed: “Unto the said Nathan H. Palmer and Alice E. Palmer as joint tenants, and not as tenants in common, to them and their assigns and to the survivor, and the heirs and assigns of the survivor forever.” This deed also conveyed a warranty that the grantor, its successors and assigns “shall and will warrant and defend the same to the said grantees their heirs and assigns forever.” Then, Alice and Nathan were divorced and by quitclaim deed without covenant in 1951, Alice conveyed the premises to Nathan, who then conveyed the premises to Frank Palmer, who reconveyed the premises to Nathan and his sister Roxa Palmer (Plaintiff) “as joint tenants and not as tenants in common, to them and their heirs and assigns, and to the survivor of them, and to the heirs and assi
    gns of such survivor forever.”

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the intent of the parties to a deed or conveyance, where the grantor conveys a fee, is clear and convincing as to their intent to create a joint tenancy, then a joint tenancy is created, and the right of survivorship is not to be considered a contingent remainder.

    Facts. The Federal Land Bank of Springfield (one of the Defendants) conveyed property to Nathan Palmer and his wife Alice Palmer (now Alice Flint the other Defendant) which contained the following language in the deed: “Unto the said Nathan H. Palmer and Alice E. Palmer as joint tenants, and not as tenants in common, to them and their assigns and to the survivor, and the heirs and assigns of the survivor forever.” This deed also conveyed a warranty that the grantor, its successors and assigns “shall and will warrant and defend the same to the said grantees their heirs and assigns forever.” Then, Alice and Nathan were divorced and by quitclaim deed without covenant in 1951, Alice conveyed the premises to Nathan, who then conveyed the premises to Frank Palmer, who reconveyed the premises to Nathan and his sister Roxa Palmer (Plaintiff) “as joint tenants and not as tenants in common, to them and their heirs and assigns, and to the survivor of them, and to the heirs and assigns of such s
    urvivor forever.” Then, in 1957, Nathan Palmer died. The Plaintiff asked the court to determine: 1. The rights and status of the parties as to the property, and 2. That if it should appear that the Federal Land Bank of Springfield did not convey an estate which reflected the true intent of the parties, that the deed be reformed in accordance with the true intent of the parties. The lower court found that the parties to the deed did not intend to grant or receive any form of conveyance other than that used in the deed and that the quitclaim deed of Alice Palmer to her former husband Nathan Palmer was inoperative to convey her contingent remainder, and that the state of the title was a life estate for the life of Alice Flint for Roxa Palmer, remainder in fee to Alice Flint. The Plaintiff Roxa Palmer appealed the lower court’s judgment.

    Issue. What is the correct status of the parties as to the property?

    Held. The Plaintiff is the owner in fee. Appeal allowed and case remanded with instructions.
    The Court begins its decision by discussing the history of joint tenancies and the legal incidents thereto. In this jurisdiction, however, the only joint interest in property is that of a copartners, tenants in common and joint tenants. Tenancies by the entirety (husband and wife) have been abolished. The intent to create a joint tenancy must be clear and convincing. The Court notes the essential four elements of joint tenancy: unity of time, unity of title, unity of interest and unity of possession. The tenants in a joint tenancy must have acquired their interest at the same time in the same conveyance and must possess the property undivided.
    The Court notes that one of the joint tenants may destroy the unity of title and also the unity of time by making a conveyance to a third party. Also, that when there are more than two joint tenants and one conveys his interest to a third person, the grantee becomes a tenant in common with the others and the others remain joint tenants among themselves. The Court finds that joint tenancies are being looked on with favor in this jurisdiction, and that these deeds in this case should be construed as joint tenancies in the entire estate parted with by the grantor (The Federal Land Bank of Springfield).
    Because the intent of the parties in the original conveyance is so clear as to create a joint tenancy, the usage of the words “heirs” and “the heirs of the survivor forever,” the Court refused to hold that the original deed created a life estate in the grantees with a contingent remainder in fee to the survivor, which would preclude severance of the joint tenancy. The intent of the parties to create a joint tenancy will outweigh the technical defects of drafting in the original conveyance. The Court noted that the deed did not refer to any estate as a life estate and made no reference to any remainder.
    The necessary elements of unity of time, title, interest and possession were present in the original conveyance and the deed from the Federal Land Bank of Springfield to the grantees conveyed a fee with all the incidents of joint tenancy. No reformation of the deed is necessary. When Alice conveyed her entire interest to Nathan, he became the owner in fee.

    Discussion. This case provides a good discussion of the joint tenancy, which is an essential concept in property law.


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