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Garrett v. Garrett

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 11, 2013

JACK L. GARRETT, Plaintiff-Counterdefendant-Appellant,
v.
THELMA V. GARRETT, Defendant-Counterclaimant-Respondent.

2013 Opinion No. 68

Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Gregory M. Culet, District Judge.

The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

Rainey Law Office, Boise, for appellant. Rebecca A. Rainey argued.

Troupis Law Office, Eagle, for respondent. Christ T. Troupis argued.

HORTON, Justice.

This case arises from a dispute regarding the nature of real property (the Middleton property or the property) located in Middleton, Idaho. Alva Garrett originally owned an 80-acre parcel, but sold most of it to retire some of his debts. Alva was married to Thelma Garrett, but owned this property separately. In 1990, Alva executed a quitclaim deed (the 1990 deed) to the Middleton property from Alva Garrett to Alva Garrett and Thelma Garrett. In 2006, Alva executed another quitclaim deed (the 2006 deed) to the property from Alva Garrett to Jack Garrett, Alva's son. Alva gave the deed to Jack's brother, John, with instructions not to record it until Alva's death. Alva died in March 2008, and the deed was recorded. Jack filed suit against his step-mother, Thelma, to partition the property. After a bench trial, the court ruled that the 1990 deed transmuted the property from separate to community, invalidating the 2006 deed. It ruled in the alternative that Alva had no present intent to transfer title when he gave John the 2006 deed, making the delivery invalid. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Alva and Thelma Garrett lived on the Middleton property during their entire 32 years of marriage until Alva passed away in 2008. They were each married previously, and they each had children from those prior marriages. They also each brought separate real property to the marriage. When they were married, Alva initially owned three parcels of real property. Over time, he sold all of his property except for the Middleton property. In 1990, financial hardship forced him to sell off a significant portion of the Middleton property as well. He retained 26 acres of the property, which included the home where he and Thelma resided. Two months later, Alva executed a quitclaim deed that simply stated that the deed conveyed the property from Alva L. Garrett to Alva L. Garrett and Thelma V. Garrett. Alva prepared this deed himself, without consulting an attorney. The day after executing that quitclaim deed, Alva and Thelma granted a mortgage on the property for $20, 000. They were both listed on the mortgage documents. Alva and Thelma paid off the mortgage jointly. They also paid the taxes on the property from their joint checking accounts.

In 1995, Alva and Thelma entered into a contract for wills that provided that the surviving spouse would take the entire estate. Upon the death of the survivor, the estate would be divided equally among the seven children of their combined family. The Middleton property was the only real property owned by their estates.

In February 2006, Alva executed a quitclaim deed purportedly conveying his interest in the Middleton property to his son, Jack Garrett. Thelma was unaware of this until after Alva's death. Alva gave the deed to John Garrett, Jack's brother, and instructed him not to record it until after Alva's death. John kept the deed and recorded it in March 2008, two days after Alva's death. After the preparation of the 2006 deed, the management of the Middleton property went on as before. Alva and Thelma continued to live in the home, and Jack continued to pay them rent for farming the property.

In August 2009, Jack filed suit to partition the property. Thelma argued that Alva had transmuted the property by executing the 1990 deed. Jack argued that the 1990 deed had created a tenancy in common and the 2006 deed had transferred Alva's one-half interest to Jack. Following a bench trial, the district court ruled that Alva had intended to transmute the property from separate to community when he deeded the property to himself and Thelma in 1990 and that because Thelma did not consent to the 2006 transfer, it was void. The district court found that "[i]t is inescapable that one reason for Alva to transfer his remaining property to both Alva and Thelma was to effectuate obtaining another mortgage on the property." Thus, pursuant to this Court's decision in Barrett v. Barrett, 149 Idaho 21, 232 P.3d 799 (2010), the district court ruled that it was free to consider all evidence with regard to Alva's intent to transmute the property. However, no evidence was introduced regarding whether the bank required Alva to execute the 1990 deed in order to obtain the mortgage. The court also ruled in the alternative that the 2006 deed had not been validly delivered because Alva did not intend to divest himself of the property until after his death. Jack appeals arguing the 1990 deed created a tenancy in common and the 2006 deed was properly delivered.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The party asserting that property was transmuted must prove the intent to transmute by clear and convincing evidence. Hoskinson v. Hoskinson, 139 Idaho 448, 459, 80 P.3d 1049, 1060 (2003). Furthermore, overcoming a presumption of valid delivery of a deed also requires clear and convincing evidence. Russ Ballard & Family Achievement Inst. v. Lava Hot Springs Resort, Inc., 97 Idaho 572, 579, 548 P.2d 72, 79 (1976). "[W]here the trial court has explicitly determined the case by application of the clear and convincing evidentiary standard, this Court must determine if the decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence." In re Doe, 146 Idaho 759, 761, 203 P.3d 689, 691 (2009). Thus, the trial court's finding will not be ...


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