Murder and Joint Tenancy

Holding property as joint tenants means there is a right to survivorship.  This means that when one joint tenant dies then the interest of that joint tenant passes automatically to the other joint tenant.  So if Amy and Fred own property as joint tenants then each has 50% joint tenant interest.  Also, the parties can also record a “mutual consent agreement” which says that the joint tenants have agreed among themselves that their JT can only be severed if everyone agrees.   This prevents Fred from transferring his interest without Amy’s consent.

Now let’s add a Halloween twist — what if Amy (knowing these rules) wants all of the 100% interest in the 200 acre property and at night murders Fred!?   That would be Amy would get all of Fred’s interest automatically.  Right?  Not so fast…..

Murder!  There is an exception to this rule that says if one joint tenant murders another joint tenant, the joint tenancy is severed and terminated!  This is to prevent murderers from killing their JT partner to get property.  This also applies to voluntary manslaughter (for those who last remember this from law school criminal law class is when you kill under extreme provocation).

Source: Prof. Huber’s California Real Estate Law 9th Edition.


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