MBE Strategies Blog Post Series: Welcome to our MBE tips and tricks blog post series — geared toward those looking for extra MBE help! This post focuses on a Real Property MBE tip.
You will see 25 scored Real Property MBE questions on the Multistate Bar Exam.
Note that we have posted several posts that focus on a specific multiple-choice question that many students answer incorrectly. If you can master these questions, it could increase your MBE score by that many points if you see any of these issues tested again (which, by the way, you will!). These posts of MBE tips and tricks will not only cover substantive law but also strategy. So each post covers one highly-tested area of substantive law as well as an important MBE strategy.
Do your best to answer this Real Property MBE question (before even looking at the answer choices and before looking at the answer below!) Ask yourself: What is the subject? What is the legal issue? What is the rule and analysis? What is the conclusion? Try to answer these beginning questions before even reading the answer choices. Then, uncover the Real Property answer as well as read more about our MBE tip of the day. This question is a popular question on the MBE — you may have already seen something similar in your practice! And if you have not, you probably will!
You can also watch us dissect the question in the video below!
Real Property MBE Question
A sister and brother own property as joint tenants. A victim of a car accident has a judgment against the sister after a court found she was negligent in causing a car accident which injured the victim. The victim properly filed the judgment and has a lien on the sister’s real property.
The statute in the jurisdiction states: “Any judgment properly filed shall, for ten years from the date of filing, be a lien on the real property then owned or subsequently acquired by any person against whom the judgment is rendered.” Before the victim took any additional action, the sister died.
Who has an interest in the land?
(A) The brother.
(B) The brother and the sister’s heirs.
(C) The brother and the victim.
(D) The brother, subject to the victim’s judgment.
Legal Rule and Analysis: (If you need to look at your outline to find the legal rule, feel free to use it when you have not yet memorized the subject. Using your outline will help you actively learn and memorize your outline!)
Look at the answer choices provided. Choose an answer choice that matches your conclusion. Review the other answer choices provided.
Answer to the Real Property MBE Question
Common Mistake: Students do not pause to think about the true issue and instead, hurry to pick an answer choice!
Subject: Real Property
Legal Issue: Who has an interest in the land? Specifically, was the joint tenancy “severed” at any point in time?
Legal Rule and Analysis: A joint tenancy has a “right of survivorship.” So if one joint tenant dies, the other will take the joint tenant’s entire interest in the land. However, one can unilaterally sever a joint tenancy during one’s lifetime. This unilateral severance changes a joint tenancy into a tenancy in common. It can occur in four ways (mnemoic = “G-SAM”): (1) giving it away during life; (2) signing a contract of sale; (3) an actual judicial sale by a creditor (foreclosure on interest); or (4) granting a mortgage in a title theory state;
Here, none of those occurred. The creditor was close to #3 — if they would have foreclosed while the sister was alive, they would have an interest. But the creditor did not!
Choose an answer choice that most closely matches your conclusion and explain why the others are incorrect: (A) is the correct answer. Because the joint tenancy was never severed, only the brother owns the land. The judgment was against the sister and her interest “disappeared” the moment she died. The brother took over the whole interest. In other words, the judgment lien creditor has an interest in whatever the sister’s interest is in—which is in this case, nothing. The judgment lien creditor could have avoided this by foreclosing on its interest while the sister is alive, but they did not. That is why (B), (C), and (D) are incorrect. They do not follow this logic.
MBE Tip: Real Property is historically one of the harder areas on the MBE (and now with the new changes to Real Property, students really do not know what to expect!). To make it more likely you will guess a Real Property question right, (1) briefly jot out the facts (this is especially helpful when you see a lengthy Real Property question; (2) try to identify the real legal issue — e.g. the legal issue above was whether a severance occurred–this can oftentimes lead to you thinking of the law you need to know to answer the question; and (3) eliminate incorrect answer choices even if you are still unsure of the answer. You have a better chance of filling in the right bubble!
Key Takeaways for the day:
Takeaway for the Law: A joint tenancy has a “right of survivorship.” So if one joint tenant dies, the other will take the joint tenant’s entire interest in the land. However, one can unilaterally sever a joint tenancy during one’s lifetime. This unilateral severance can occur in four ways: 1) giving it away during life; (2) signing a contract of sale; (3) an actual judicial sale by a creditor (foreclosure on interest); or (4) granting a mortgage in a title theory state;
MBE Tip: To make it more likely you will guess a Real Property question right, (1) briefly jot out the facts (this is especially helpful when you see a lengthy Real Property question; (2) try to identify the real legal issue — e.g. the legal issue above was whether a severance occurred–this can oftentimes lead to you thinking of the law you need to know to answer the question; and (3) eliminate incorrect answer choices even if you are still unsure of the answer. You have a better chance of filling in the right bubble!
Want to see Past MBE Tip of the Day posts?
If you would like to see “MBE tip of the day” posts from prior days, please check out all of our past MBE tip of the day archives here! We have several of them and we list them by subject!
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