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Court Holds That A Husband Had No Interest In His Deceased’s Wife’s Real Estate That Was Obtained Via A Gift Deed

In Leland House v. Webb, a husband sued his deceased wife’s executor to quiet title in real estate that she obtained from her aunt. No. 06-19-00054-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 10012 (Tex. App.—Texarkana November 19, 2019, no pet. history). The executor argued that the transfer was not a sell of property, but was a gift. The trial court ruled for the executor, and the husband appealed. The court of appeals first reviewed the law regarding community property and presumptions concerning same:

In general, characterization of property is determined by the time and circumstances of its acquisition, often referred to as the ‘inception of title’ doctrine.” It is presumed that property possessed by spouses during marriage is community property, but this presumption can be overcome by clear and convincing evidence that it is the separate property of a spouse. Property a spouse acquires “during marriage by gift, devise, or descent” is separate property.

Id. The court then stated that it was undisputed that the aunt conveyed tracts of land to the wife while she was married to the husband. The court held that the property was presumed to be community property unless clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that it was a gift.

The court then reviewed the deed conveying the property, which stated:

I, ELIZABETH SPRADLEY BAUMAN, . . . for and in consideration of the love and affection which I have for my niece, the Grantee, have GRANTED, SOLD AND CONVEYED, and by these presents do GRANT, SELL AND CONVEY unto DIAN[N]E HOUSE . . . all of the surface (without the present merchantable timber) and mineral estate in the following described real property in Nacogdoches County, Texas, to-wit: . . . “Big Loco Farm” . . . and “Little Farm.”

Id. The husband argued that the deed does not contain the word “gift” or indicate that it is to be the wife’s sole and separate property. The court disagreed:

Leland’s argument requires us to ignore the provision that the property was granted, sold, and conveyed “for and in consideration of” love and affection. In other words, the price of the sale, as plainly stated by the terms of the deed, was love and affection. No further consideration was mentioned or implied. We find Leland’s interpretation of the deed unreasonable because the deed plainly states that the only consideration for the transfer was love and affection for a family member. Bauman’s intent to give the Property to Dianne can be ascertained from the language of the deed. Therefore, we conclude that the deed was itself sufficient to rebut the presumption favoring community property. In light of this finding, we need not address Leland’s remaining arguments.

Id. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment for the wife’s executor.

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About this Author

David Johnson Financial Litigator Winstead Law Firm

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the Texas Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary field in Texas. 

David's financial institution experience includes (but is not limited to): breach of contract, foreclosure litigation, lender liability, receivership and injunction remedies upon default, non-recourse and other real estate lending, class...

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