Survivorship Ensures Full Ownership

  Question:  My brother and I purchased a four-unit apartment building in Gilbert four years ago after we graduated from college.  We took title to this building as joint tenants with right of survivorship.  A year later, my brother married his girlfriend and they have a baby girl.  My brother died last month in a car accident.  Do I own 100 percent of this apartment building now because my brother and I held title as joint tenants with right of survivorship?

  P.S. Even if I do own 100 percent of the building, I still intend to establish a trust for my brother’s baby with the proceeds from the sale of the apartment building.

  Answer:  Upon your brother’s death, you became the full owner of the apartment building.  You and your brother acknowledged in writing on the deed that title was being held as join tenants with right of survivorship – that is, the surviving brother would own 100 percent of the four-unit apartment building.  Neither your brother’s marriage nor the birth of his baby girl affected this right of survivorship.  You did not say whether your brother had a will or a trust.  If your brother did have a will or trust, and your brother’s will or trust had a provision for disposition of his interest in this apartment building, this provision in the will or trust would be unenforceable.  Taking title as joint tenants with right of survivorship overrides any disposition of property in a will or trust.

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