Legal Memorandum: Rights under Joint Tenancy in HI

Issue: Under Hawaii law, will a transfer of a joint tenant’s interests to the joint tenant and a third party impact the rights of other joint tenants?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Joint tenancy; Transfer; Joint tenant's rights
Jurisdiction: Hawaii
Cited Cases: 59 Haw. 277
Cited Statutes: Haw. Stat. § 509‑2
Date: 08/01/2000

No case in Hawaii has dealt with the situation in which a joint tenant conveys his/her interest to him- or herself and a third party.  The statute that authorizes joint tenancies does not address the possibility.  See Haw. Stat. § 509‑2.  There is a case, however, which suggests that such a transfer cannot act to affect the other joint tenant’s rights.

In Corey v. Jonathan Manor, Inc., 59 Haw. 277, 580 P.2d 843 (1978), the court gave some guidance as to the topic.  In that case, a divorce court created a joint tenancy with right of survivorship in real property, as settlement of the marital estate.  A judgment creditor tried to execute on the husband’s interest.  The court’s analysis states that

neither Mrs. Corey’s life interest nor her right of survivorship could be defeated by the unilateral action of Mr. Corey. Conversely, Mr. Corey’s right of survivorship could not be defeated by the unilateral action of Mrs. Corey.  His interest in the property in this case, which consisted of a remainder in fee contingent upon his surviving Mrs. Corey, was subject to alienation and to levy and execution.

Id. at 278, 580 P.2d at 844 (emphasis added).  The husband was capable of alienating (and his creditors were capable of executing on) only the interest he had in the joint tenancy, i.e., a remainder in fee contingent upon his surviving his ex-wife.


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