Illinois Joint Tenancy Law Liberalized

The creation of and the termination of rights of parties who hold title to property as joint tenants have been liberalized in Illinois.

In the case of Sathoff v. Sutter, 373 Ill. 3d App. 795, 869 N.E.2d 354 (Fifth District, 2007), the parties involved were an individual and a couple. The three acquired title in 1981 as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. After fifteen years, the couple sought to hold title as joint tenants only as between themselves. In 1996, they executed a deed conveying title to themselves as joint tenants.

The husband died first. Then the wife died. The third joint tenant claimed that he was now the owner of the entire interest in the property. His argument was that the 1996 conveyance failed to create a joint tenancy because the Joint Tenancy Act does not allow an existing owner to be a sole grantee in a conveyance. The executor of the wife’s estate took exception. The executor claimed that by virtue of the deed executed in 1996, the third joint tenant owned only an undivided one-third interest as a tenant in common and that the estate owned the other two-thirds interest.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the trial court which held in favor of the executor. The reasoning was based on a view that the Joint Tenancy Act calls for courts to adopt a more liberal view regarding transactions of this nature. The court ruled that the deed the couple executed in 1996 conveying title to themselves effectively severed the joint tenancy created between them and the third person. It also ruled that the 1996 deed created a valid joint tenancy as between the couple regarding their two-thirds interest in the property. Accordingly, the estate held title to the two-thirds interest. The single individual owned his one-third share as a tenant in common.

Consult your estate planning attorney for further information.