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Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship, Severance

Real estate can be held and titled in several different ways. When there is more than one owner, one of the most common ways the property is held is as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. If property is held this way, the co-owners share one undivided estate, with the distinctive characteristic of the right of survivorship. Remax of Blue Springs v. Vajda & Co., 708 S.W.2d 804, 806 (Mo. Ct. App. 1986). “Right of survivorship” simply means that if and when one one of the co-owners dies, the surviving co-owner(s) proportionately takes the decedent’s interests in the property.

Interestingly, one co-owner can convey his/her/its interest in the real property to a third-party and essentially destroy the joint tenancy and accompanying right of survivorship. Johnson v. Woodard, 356 S.W.2d 526, 528 (Mo. Ct. App. 1962). The consent of the other co-owners is not required. Accordingly, severability functions as an “escape hatch” available to all co-owners where any one of them can terminate the legal relationship. Courts, moreover, have consistently upheld this public policy and specifically found that it does not constitute an invalid restraint on trade.

Contact with questions relative to real estate, joint tenancies and severability.