In re Estate of Johnson

From Wiki Law School does not provide legal advice. For educational purposes only.
In re Estate of Johnson
Court Iowa Supreme Court
Citation 739 N.W.2d 493
Date decided September 28, 2007


  • A married couple ("Johnson") bought a home under Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship
  • The couple lived there for 35 years while raising 3 children.
  • After the wife had a stroke; subsequently, discussion arose to convey the wife's interest to her husband
  • the wife (mother) executed a power of attorney for her daughter
  • the daughter signed a quitclaim deed on behalf of her mother conveying her interest to the husband
  • The husband died unexpectedly
  • The couple's 3 children inherited all the property interest

Procedural History

  • The recovered mother sued her children in court demanding her forced spousal share of her husband's estate in spite of the deceased husband's will giving everything to the children.
  • The trial court ruled that the mother's statutory homestead rights didn't prevent her husband from destroying the joint tenancy.
  • The trial court ruled that title to the homestead was split between the mother & her husband's estate as tenants in common
  • The mother died in the course of her appeal. Her son continued the appeal as the executor of her estate


Can an invalid instrument, such as a void deed, establish intent to create, sever, or terminate a joint tenancy under the intent-based approach?

In other words, can a void deed sever a joint tenancy?


The mother argued that her incompetence following the stroke invalidated the execution of the power of attorney. Thus, the transfer of her land interest to her husband was invalid, too.


No; under the intent-based approach, intent to create, sever, or terminate a joint tenancy must be derived from a valid deed or similar instrument.


Reversed & remanded to the trial court