Bryant v. Bryant

522 S.W.3d 392 (2017)

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Bryant v. Bryant

Tennessee Supreme Court

522 S.W.3d 392 (2017)

Facts

James and Molly Bryant purchased a residential property in Tennessee. Molly became the sole owner of the property after the death of James. Shortly after the death of James, Molly executed a quitclaim deed (first deed), conveying the property to both herself and her son, Darryl Bryant, Sr. (the son) (plaintiff). The deed indicated that Molly and the son were joint tenants with an express right of survivorship, which meant that either cotenant, or co-owner, was entitled to complete ownership of the property upon the death of the other co-owner. However, about a year later, Molly executed a second quitclaim deed (second deed) on the property that conveyed her interest in the property to the son of Darryl Sr., Darryl Bryant, Jr. (the grandson) (defendant). Molly died while living on the property with the grandson. The son brought an action against the grandson in which he sought declaratory relief and possession of the property. The son asserted that his right of survivorship provided by the first deed entitled him to become the sole owner of the property upon Molly’s death. The grandson filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that the second deed severed the son’s right of survivorship and made the two men tenants in common. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the son, finding that the son owned the property in fee simple (i.e., all present and future interests in the property) after Molly’s death because a cotenant may not unilaterally destroy a joint tenancy with an express right of survivorship. The court of appeals affirmed, finding that Molly intended to preserve the joint tenancy with an express right of survivorship because the second deed referenced the right of survivorship. The grandson appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kirby, J.)

Dissent (Lee, J.)

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