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MARIO MARGARITE v. JOSEPH EWALD AND GEORGE EWALD (12/28/77)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 28, 1977.

MARIO MARGARITE
v.
JOSEPH EWALD AND GEORGE EWALD, APPELLANTS

No. 699 October Term, 1977, On Appeal from Order of the Common Pleas, Trial Div., Law, Declaratory Judgment, Philadelphia County, No. 3316, March Term, 1976.

COUNSEL

James J. Martin, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Louis B. Priluker and Leonard Zack, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ.

Author: Jacobs

[ 252 Pa. Super. Page 246]

We are asked on this appeal to review a determination by the common pleas court of Philadelphia County that the plaintiff-appellee has a one-sixth interest in property originally deeded to his mother and stepfather and another person. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, we reverse.

The real estate in question was conveyed by deed dated January 16, 1967, to "John Ewald and Mary B. Ewald his wife and Joseph Ewald . . . as tenants in common with right of survivorship." The appellee is the son of Mary B. Ewald by her first marriage. Mary B. Ewald died intestate on November 8, 1973, and left appellee and John Ewald, her second husband, as her sole heirs at law. John Ewald, appellee's stepfather, died thereafter on August 20, 1974, and bequeathed his entire estate to his brother George Ewald. The other grantee to the original deed, Joseph Ewald, is still living.

The appellee filed a petition for a declaratory judgment asking the court below to interpret the deed and decide whether appellee's mother, Mary B. Ewald, had acquired any interest which passed to appellee upon her death. The case was submitted on stipulated facts and, after oral argument, the lower court held that the deed created a tenancy in

[ 252 Pa. Super. Page 247]

    common in which each grantee owned a one-third interest. Thus, the court ruled that appellee owned a one-sixth interest in the property which represented his intestate share of his mother's estate. The court en banc affirmed this determination,*fn1 and a timely appeal was taken to our Court.

The appellants contend that the deed created a tenancy by the entireties in which John Ewald and Mary B. Ewald, his wife, held a one-half interest and upon the death of Mary B. Ewald her spouse John Ewald became the sole owner of their entireties interest. We agree.

The terms used in the deed are patently contradictory. It is basic property law that "a right of survivorship" is not associated with a "tenancy in common." The deed therefore cites a legal impossibility. The lower court recognized these facts and based its holding, that a tenancy in common was created among the parties, on: 1) the statutory presumption that a conveyance or devise carries with it no right of survivorship unless clearly expressed; 2) the emerging legal recognition that a married woman may hold property in her own right without any legal disabilities formerly associated with the legal fiction of the unity of husband and wife; and 3) the public policy against restrictions on alienation of property.

The lower court was correct when it noted that since the passage of the Act of 1812*fn2 there is a presumption that a conveyance or devise to two or more persons, not husband or wife or trustees, carries with it no right of survivorship unless clearly expressed. Zomisky v. Zamiska, 449 Pa. 239, 241, 296 A.2d 722, 723 (1972); Michael Estate, 421 Pa. 207, 211, 218 A.2d 338 (1966). Thus, the law in our Commonwealth is that unless the terms of the agreement expressly or by necessary implication call for a joint tenancy a tenancy in common will be presumed. Pennsylvania Bank & Trust Co. v. Thompson, 432 Pa. 262, 247 A.2d 771 (1968);

[ 252 Pa. Super. Page 248]

    interest.*fn3 See Heatter v. Lucas, supra 367 Pa. at 301, 80 A.2d at 752. Because of the express identification of the marital entity in the deed, and the use of the double "and", we believe that the parties must be taken to have considered and given significance to the marital status of two of the grantees. We therefore hold that, the interest of John Ewald and Mary B. Ewald were those of tenants by the entireties.*fn4 As such, upon the death of Mary B. Ewald, the entire interest vested in her husband.

A contrary conclusion is not warranted because of the use of the words "as tenants in common with right of survivorship." We believe that through the use of these terms the correct conclusion is that the one-half interest of the married couple, although held by the entireties as between themselves, was held in common in relation to the interest of Joseph Ewald. See Ladner, Conveyancing in Pennsylvania ยง 1:16 (3rd ed. P. Wood 1961).

[ 252 Pa. Super. Page 250]

Unlike the case of Wally v. Lehr, 2 Pa.D. & C.2d 722 (1954), we are not confronted with a conveyance to a husband and wife, and a third party "as joint tenants with a right of survivorship and not as tenants in common." In that case the interest between the married couple, who held their half interest by the entireties, was clearly that of a joint tenant with the third party. Nor does the case of Zomisky v. Zamiska, 449 Pa. 239, 296 A.2d 722, 723 (1972) warrant a different result. In that case the conveyance was to "Mike Zamiska and George Zamiska as joint tenants and as in common with the right of survivorship." The Supreme Court held that the use of the words "with right of survivorship" when used in conjunction with the term "joint tenants" removed any ambiguity and made it clear that the intention of the parties was to create a joint tenancy. Id. 449 Pa. at 244, 296 A.2d at 724. That is not the case here. For, as we noted above, when the concept of a right of survivorship is considered in the context of a tenancy in common, the ambiguity is compounded not diminished.

In order to engraft the right of survivorship on a co-tenancy which might otherwise be a tenancy in common, the intent to do so must be expressed with sufficient clarity to overcome the statutory presumption that survivorship is not intended. Zomisky v. Zamiska, supra 449 Pa. at 242, 296 A.2d at 723; Maxwell v. Saylor, supra 359 Pa. at 97, 58 A.2d at 356. We see no reason why the rule should be different where, as in this case, the interests in the land are held between a married couple who hold by the entireties and a third person.*fn5 The intent to create a right of survivorship was not sufficiently expressed in the deed. See Michael Estate, 421 Pa. 207, 218 A.2d 338 (1966). A tenancy in a common was thus created between the husband and wife and Joseph Ewald.

[ 252 Pa. Super. Page 251]

The declaratory judgment entered by the lower court is vacated and the record is remanded for the entry of a declaratory judgment in accordance with this opinion.


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