October 19, 2011
Case of the Week
Westpac Aspen Investments, LLC v. Residences at Little Nell Development, LLC (Colorado Ct. of Appeals)
Issue: Does the merger of title doctrine extinguish a prescriptive easement when the sole owner of the servient estate holds title to the dominant estate in joint tenancy with his spouse?
Holding: No. The common ownership necessary to trigger the merger doctrine “must be absolute, not defeasible or determinable, and coextensive, rather than owned in different fractions.” A joint tenant, however, lacks absolute dominion over the jointly held property. “Upon the death of one of the co-tenants in joint tenancy, the entire undivided interest of the deceased passes, by operation of law, to the surviving co-tenant.” Moreover, the joint tenant may not alienate, encumber, or transfer the interest of the other joint tenant.
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