This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
53. Litt. Sec. 296; Co. Litt. 190a.
- Termination. A joint tenancy may be terminated by the destruction of any one of its unities, since they are all necessary to its existence. Such a destruction of one or more of the unities is frequently termed a "severance" of the joint tenancy and involves in theory the substitution, for the single estate, in different persons, of joint tenancy, distinct estates in different persons, or a single estate in one person.
A conveyance of his interest by a joint tenant in favor of a stranger necessarily destroys the unity of title, and also that of the time, the stranger holding his interest by a title different from that by which his cotenant or cotenants hold, it being also acquired by him at a different time.
If one of two joint tenants disposes of his interest by conveyance inter vivos the other joint tenant and the grantee become tenants in common, while. if one of three or more joint tenants conveys his interest to a third person, the latter then becomes a tenant in common, instead of a joint tenant, with the others, though such others remain joint tenants as between themselves.54
That one of two joint tenants in fee simple makes a conveyance of his interest for life, has been regarded as effecting a severance, and as making the grantee for life, and the other joint tenant, tenants in common,55 with the result that if either of the former joint tenants dies during the existence of the life interest, there is no right of survivorship, but his share passes to his heirs,56 although upon the termination of the cause a severance of the joint tenancy.66 The same effect has been imputed to a mortgage in at least one state in which a mortgage does not involve a transfer of the legal title.67 This does not appear to accord with the common law authorities to the effect that the creation by a joint tenant of a mere charge upon the land,68 or the grant of a mere incorporeal thing, a privilege such as a right of profit, to be exercised upon the land,69 is a nullity as against the right of the other joint tenant as survivor.
Life interest the joint tenancy, as it originally existed, revives.57
54. Litt. Sec.Sec. 292, 294; 2 Blackst. Comm. 186; 4 Kent, Comm. 363; Robinson v. Codman, 1 Sumn. 121, Fed. Cas. No. 11,970; Foster v. Smith, 211 Mass, 497, 98 N. E. 693;
Davidson v. Heydom, 2 Yeates (Pa.) 459.
55. Litt. Sec. 302; Co. Litt. 191b.
56. Litt. Sec.Sec. 302, 303.
If one of two joint tenants in fee simple makes a lease for years of his share, the lease is no doubt binding upon the other joint tenant in case of the death of the lessor,58 but whether it effects a severance, as does the conveyance of a life estate, so as to take away the right of survivorship so long as the particular estate endures, does not clearly appear.59 That, if one of two joint tenants for years makes a lease for a less term of years, there is a complete severance so long as the lease endures, defeating the right of survivorship in case of death, appears to be conceded.60 A lease of the whole property by all the joint tenants interested therein, reserving rent jointly, does not operate to effect a severance.61 It has been decided that in equity a mere contract by one joint tenant to sell his share,62 or to settle it,63 will effect a severance. An agreement between the joint tenants to hold as tenants in common will have this effect,64 and such an agreement may be inferred from the mode in which the parties deal with the property.65
In jurisdictions in which a mortgage ordinarily operates to transfer the legal title, a mortgage by a joint tenant, which involves such a transfer, will no doubt
57. Co. Litt. 193a; 2 Preston, Abstracts, 59.
58. Litt. Sec. 289; Co. Litt. 185a; 1 Platt, Leases, 127; Clerk v. Clerk, 2 Vera. 323.
59. There are suggestions that it does not, in 1 Platt. Leases, 130; regard thereto, a tenant in common with the third co-tenant, while he is still a joint tenant with regard to that which he already held.73
Challis, Real Prop. 367, note; 24 Halsbury's Laws of England, 205.
60. Co. Litt. 192a; 2 Preston, Abstracts, 60; Sym's Case, Cro. Eliz. 33.
61. Palmer v. Rich  1 Ch. 134.
62. Brown v. Raindle, 3 Ves. 256.
63. Burnaby v. Equitable Reversionary Interest Soc. 28 Ch. Div. 416; Re Hewett  1 Ch. 362.
64. Frewen v. Relfe, 2 Brown's C. C. 224; Gould v. Kemp, 2 Mylne & K. 304.
65. Williams v. Hensman, 1 Johns. & H. 546; Jackson v. Jackson, 9 Ves. 591, 598, 604; Re Wil-ford's Estate, 11 Ch. D. 267; Wilson v. Bell, 5 Ir. Eq. 501; Freeman, Cotenancy, Sec. 62.
If one joint tenant becomes a bankrupt, the involuntary transfer of his interest to the trustee, which then takes place, would presumably operate to effect a severance, and this result would no doubt follow upon the sale of his share under execution upon a judgment against him.70 Even a mere seizure under execution, apart from sale, has been regarded as having such an effect.71
A joint tenancy may be terminated in part or wholly, not only by a conveyance to a stranger, but also by a conveyance to, that is, a release in favor of,72 another joint tenant. In such a case, if the effect of the conveyance or release is to vest the whole property in the land in one person, the joint tenancy is terminated because there is no longer a holding by more than one person, while if one of three or more joint tenants conveys or releases his interest in favor of one of the others, there is a severance as regards that interest, and the latter cotenant becomes, with
66. York v. Stone, 1 Salk. 158; Re Pollard's Estate, 3 De G., J. & Sm. 541; McPherson v. Snowden, 19 Md. 197, 230; Simpson's Lessee v. Ammons, 1 Binn. (Pa.) 175, 2 Am. Dec. 425.
67. Wilkins v. Young, 144 Ind. 1, 55 Am. St. Rep. 162, 41 N. E. 68.
68. Litt. Sec. 286; Co. Litt. 184.
69. Co. Litt. 185a.
70. See Fladung v. Rose, 58 Md. 13; Thornburg v. Wiggins, 135 Ind. 178, 22 L. R. A. 42, 41 Am. St. Rep. 422, 34 N. E. 999.
71. Abergavenny's Case, 6 Co. Rep. 78; Davidson v. Heydon, 2 Yeates (Pa.) 463.
72. Wythe's (Va.) Rep. at p. 397.
If one of two or more joint tenants for life purchases the inheritance or obtains it by descent, his life interest being merged in the fee, there ceases to be a unity of interest, and consequently the joint tenancy ceases as to him.74
A joint tenancy may be terminated by a destruction of the unity of possession by means of a partition among the joint tenants, to hold each a part in severalty.75