Pearce v. Briggs

Facts: A married couple owns multiple properties holding title as joint tenants. The wife dies, leaving a will stating their joint tenancy property is to be distributed equally to their children on the wife’s death. The husband records an affidavit of death of joint tenant, taking title as the sole vested owner of the properties. The husband creates a trust naming less than all the children as the beneficiaries who will take title to the property on the husband’s death.

Claims: The children not named as beneficiaries of the trust seek to establish their share of the estate, claiming a beneficial interest in the trust the husband created since they were named to share in the deceased wife’s will.

Counterclaim: The children named as beneficiaries of the trust claim they alone are the beneficiaries of the estate since the deceased wife’s will did not terminate the joint tenancy and the surviving husband as the sole owner can distribute the property without concern for the deceased wife’s will.

Holding: A California appeals court holds the husband as the surviving joint tenant acquired full ownership of the properties on the wife’s death and may set up a trust naming the beneficiaries of his choice since the wife did not sever the joint tenancy ownership of the properties. [Pearce v. Briggs (2021) 68 CA5th 466]

Read Pearce v. Briggs in full here.

Related Readings:

Legal Aspects of Real Estate

Chapter 27: The right of survivorship among co-owners