Matter of Estate of Vadney

New York Court of Appeals

634 N.E.2d 976 (N.Y. 1994)

Under New York law, extrinsic evidence may be introduced to overcome a statutory presumption that a deed conveying property to more than one person, in the absence of language describing the intended form of tenancy, to prove a tenancy in common.

Relevant Facts

Catherine Vadney hired an attorney to draft a deed conveying her house from her sole ownership to joint ownership with her son, Peter Vadney. The executed deed did not specify what type of tenancy Catherine Vadney intended to create. After Catherine died, Peter served as the executor of her estate. Peter believed that his mother’s deed had created a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically conferring title upon him at her death. Pursuant to that belief, Peter excluded the house from the estate assets that were to be equally distributed among Catherine’s children in accordance with her will. Catherine’s three other children argued that the absence of express language creating a joint tenancy rendered the deed a conveyance of tenancy in common under New York statutory law. Accordingly, they argued that 1/2 of the property should’ve been included among the assets of Catherine’s estate. Peter Vadney petitioned the court to reform the deed in conformity with his belief. The probate court held that extrinsic evidence was inadmissible to reform the deed and denied Peter’s petition. Peter appealed and the appellate court reversed. The remaining children petitioned the court of appeals for review.

Issue

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Holding & Reasoning

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Concurrence

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Dissent

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Last updated:

December 12, 2020

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Procedural History

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Citations

634 N.E.2d 976 (N.Y. 1994)