Can A Survivorship Deed Be Contested?

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“It is not surprising that survivorship deeds are popular estate planning tools. When one co-owner passes away, the title to the property transfers to the surviving co-owners without the need for probate.  If you are considering transferring property to your child or spouse, the survivorship deed could be an effective instrument to incorporate into estate planning. Today, we will learn about can a survivorship deed be contested.”

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Can A Survivorship Deed Be Contested?

Survivorship: What Is It?

In a property that has the right to survivorship, when one of the owners of the joint is killed, their share is automatically transferred to the other owners without having to go through probate. Consequently, the surviving owner(s) will acquire full ownership of the property without requiring any legal action.

The legal document establishes joint ownership and the property’s right to a survivorship. It’s often called a joint tenancy and the right to survivorship. Using this type of deed, co-owners (also known as joint tenants) agree that their interest in the property will automatically transfer to their successors upon the death of one owner.

When married couples, family members, or close friends wish to own property together, this type of deed ensures a smooth transfer of ownership if one owner passes away.

Creating a right of survivorship deed can have tax implications and can also be affected by state laws, so you should speak with a legal professional as soon as possible.


Deeds of Survivorship: Essential Elements

It is common practice in estate planning to use survivorship deeds to transfer property between family members, couples, and business partners. Below is a list of the most critical components of a survivorship deed:


Description of Property:

Survivorship deeds must include an accurate and complete description of the property sold and the legal definition, which appears in public records or on the deed.


Survivorship Clause:

If one owner dies, the property is automatically transferred to the surviving owner, which avoids the costly and lengthy probate process.


Ownership Details:

There must be a clear listing of all property owners and the percentage of ownership each holds. It is also necessary to make mention of any limitations to the right to own.



An authorized individual or notary public must witness the signatures of all owners in the survivorship deed. The signatures indicate that the owners have reviewed and approved the terms of the document.



An essential part of recording a survivorship deed is notifying others that the property belongs to the survivor in survivorship. If you sign the deed, it becomes public and can be seen by others as it belongs to them all. It may prove helpful in future conflicts or legal disputes.



A survivorship deed includes the reference that passes between parties in the transaction. In most cases, little to no money is exchanged between the parties, but it still needs to be stated in the deed.


Legal Description:

A legal description of a property includes a description of its boundaries and other characteristics that distinguish it from other properties in a particular region.


Title Insurance:

Title insurance aims to protect property owners against losses resulting from disputes over property ownership. To protect property owners, it’s important to have title insurance when creating a survivorship deed.


Which Forms of Title Have The Right Of Survival?

In some forms of ownership, the right of survivorship ensures that the property is transferred to the surviving owner(s) if a joint owner passes away without probate having to take place. In addition to joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety is also the most common form of title with a right of survivorship.


Joint Tenancy

As a form of ownership, joint tenancy is the ownership of a property with the right to survivorship for two or more people. Property owners must get it together and use one document because they all own it. The will or testamentary provisions don’t matter.

There are no restrictions regarding the number of persons who can’t tenancy, which includes members, friends or business partners. A joint tenant may, however, transfer their interest to a third party and terminate the joint tenancy or convert it into another form of ownership (such as a tenancy in common).


Tenancy by the Entirety

It is a type of ownership only available to married couples and registered domestic partners in certain states. Living in the whole means that the other spouse automatically gets the property in the event of a divorce. In addition, tenancy by the entirety offers more protection to the couple. Each spouse must agree to mortgage, transfer or burden the property. They also have the right of survivorship. Usually, when both spouses owe money, creditors can’t take their property so that ownership can safeguard it from one spouse’s debt.

Some states do not recognize tenancy, and this form of ownership may also be available in other jurisdictions.


Survivorship Rights: What Are Some Examples?

To illustrate how the right of survivorship works in practice, here are a few examples:


Survivorship Rights: What Are Some Examples?


Real Estate

John and Jane’s joint tenantship with the right of survivorship owns their home. Jane will automatically be the sole owner of the property as soon as John passes away, eliminating the need for probate. Jane does not need additional legal action upon John’s death to transfer the property.


Bank Accounts

A married couple, Mark and Mary, has a joint bank account with survivorship rights. If Mark dies, the balance of his account immediately becomes the property of Mary without the necessity of probate. For the version to appear in only Mary’s name, she must provide a copy of Mark’s death certificate to the bank.


Investment Accounts

Linda will promptly receive the balance of her account at the time Carlos passes away, thus avoiding the probate process. As joint tenants, Carlos and Linda have rights of survivorship in an investment account. Linda must give the investment firm Carlos’ death certificate and fill out paperwork to change the report’s name.


Vehicle Ownership

If Paul dies, Susan will automatically become the sole owner of the vehicle without going through the formal probate process. Paul and Susan own a car together as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Susan needs to give the Department of Motor Vehicles a copy of Paul’s death certificate.

When one owner dies, joint-owned property or assets can be transferred smoothly to the surviving owner(s) without probate. This feature can simplify Estate planning, and parties can have peace of mind.


The Right of Survivorship: How Do I Claim It?

Can right of survivorship be challenged? To claim and enforce the right of survivorship, follow these steps and know about can A Survivorship Deed Be Contested:

  1. To prove ownership, the surviving joint owner must show proof like deeds, titles, or account statements. They must demonstrate that they were joint owners of the property.
  2. To let others access and manage the joint property, the surviving owner must report them.
  3. You might need a lawyer if there are arguments about who gets what after someone dies.


Survivorship Deed for Joint Tenancy

Can a survivorship deed be changed? Survivorship deeds always involve a joint tenancy. However, the wording should accompany them that the property is a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship. Can joint tenants with rights of survivorship be contested? Joint tenancy permits two or more property owners to own a property together.

If someone dies, their share of the property automatically goes to the other joint tenant. It is common for people to hold property together as tenants in common when they hold it together. Furthermore, if a joint tenant owns the common tenancy property with the right of survivorship, the heirs can’t take it over. Moreover, none of the joint tenants can leave the jointly owned property to beneficiaries named in a will.

If joint tenants have survivorship, the property is divided equally among the remaining co-owners when one joint tenant dies without probate. The co-ownership survivors automatically receive the full legally enforceable title of the property of the joint tenant that was lost to the decedent.


Survivorship Warranty Deed

There are two main types of survivorship deeds: quitclaim deeds with survivorship and warranty deeds with survivorship. The quitclaim deed can transfer property to your relatives, such as adult children. Regarding the title to the property, a quitclaim deed does not provide any warranties.

Despite being more complicated, a warranty deed with the right of survivorship does not limit property transfer to family members. It gives the buyer assurance about the condition of the title. Sellers often use it to transfer property to two or more buyers who want joint tenancy with survivorship features. Warranty deeds assure the buyer regarding the condition of the title they are buying.

Can a transfer on death deed be contested?

A Transfer on Death deed (TOD) can be challenged, just like any other legal document related to property transfer. A TOD deed can be challenged on a variety of grounds.


Contesting A Right Of Survivorship

Can right of survivorship be challenged? If you have a joint tenancy, everyone must have equal ownership and authority, no matter the type of account or property. As long as a co-owner or owner of the property has the right of survivorship, she will share equally if she dies, regardless of her will or her heirs’ wishes. Contesting the right of survivorship can be much more complicated than challenging the validity of a will.


The documentation

If co-ownership documents appear correctly, survivorship rights may be unrestricted. If the joint tenants didn’t follow state law and bank requirements, the court might say there is no right to survivorship.


The control system

If the documentation holds up, people challenging survivorship rights must bear the burden of proof. According to the Smarter Dollar website, the right of survivorship is stronger than wills, contracts, and probate laws. Besides draining the bank account or quickly disposing of the joint-owned property, the joint tenant may also place the property out of reach of the heirs, making the issue moot.



Banks or estate executors can freeze a shared bank account until they resolve any questions about the right of survivorship. The court may determine that joint tenancy was invalid if evidence shows that the surviving tenant did not contribute any money to the account, even if both names are on the account and everything is in order.


Special Cases

If a right to survivorship exists, it won’t apply in certain circumstances. If the joint tenants die together, it can be challenging to know who died first. In this case, the heirs of each tenant will receive their share. If a tenant kills another person they share property ownership with, they aren’t able to profit from the loss. If there are no co-owners, the remaining co-owners or their heirs will split the deceased person’s share.


A Few Ways to Terminate Or Extirpate The Right Of Survivorship.

A few circumstances apply when we terminate or extinguish the right of survivorship.

  1. If the property goes to someone else, surviving joint owners lose their right of survivorship.
  2. When a marriage or business partnership ends, survivorship rights also end.
  3. Joint owners can sign a written agreement to end the right of survivorship.


Bottom Line

A joint tenant deed ensures that a deceased owner’s property will pass to the survivor promptly and irrefutably. Right of survivorship is the most common reason why people deed property as joint tenants.

However, the right of survivorship can be subject to challenge in certain circumstances. It is recommended to contact an attorney who specializes in property law fundamentals and give the specifics of your situation with care before making a claim.

Alec Stroup

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Hedy Ghavidel

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