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Joint tenancy not severed by one tenant's conveyance of security deed.

The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that a joint tenancy is not severed when one tenant conveys his interest in the property to secure a debt.

William Biggers and Linda Crook, brother and sister, inherited a piece of real property upon the death of their mother, taking the property as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The parties agreed that Biggers would live on the property, maintain the home, and pay the taxes. During his residence, Biggers executed a promissory note to Rita Craig, an acquaintance, and secured the debt with a properly recorded deed to his interest in the property. After Biggers's death, Crook filed suit to establish that she was the sole owner of the property and held title unencumbered by Craig's security deed. Craig argued that the execution and recordation of the security deed severed the joint tenancy and consequently that she owned a one-half interest in the property. The trial court found for Crook, holding that the security deed was void and that Craig had no interest in the property. Craig appealed.

On appeal, the state supreme court agreed with Craig that a joint tenancy is severed by the recording of an instrument that conveys all or a part of one tenant's interest in the property. However, the court noted that a security deed transfers bare legal title solely to secure a debt, without conveying any other incidents of ownership beyond those acquired upon the debtor's default. In this way, a security deed is nothing but the highest order of lien and does not transfer a property interest sufficient to sever a joint tenancy, according to the court. The court thus found that the tenancy was intact at the time of Biggers's death; his death terminated the tenancy, his interest in the property, and Craig's security interest. The court concluded that title to the property was vested solely in Crook. The trial court decision was affirmed.

Biggers v. Crook

Supreme Court of Georgia

January 28, 2008

656 S.E.2d 835 (Ga. 2008)

Alan M. Weinberger, JD, is a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law where he has been a law professor since 1987. Previously he practiced for twelve years with law firms in Detroit and Washington, DC, specializing in real estate transfer, finance, and development. Weinberger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. He has published articles and chapters in the fields of real estate finance, partnership, and property law. He is coauthor of Property Law Cases, Materials and Problems, 3rd ed., published by West Group. Contact: weinbeam@slu.edu
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Title Annotation:Recent Court Decisions; Biggers v. Crook
Author:Weinberger, Alan M.
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1U5GA
Date:Jun 22, 2008
Words:431
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