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Deleon v. Ramirez

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

July 19, 2017

Delma Ramirez DELEON, Irma Gomez, Josefina Castor, Olga Ramirez Niaves, Oralia De La Rosa, Gloria R. Dunford, and San Juanita R. Rodriguez, Appellants
v.
Oliverio C. RAMIREZ and Maria Luisa Ramirez, Appellees

         From the 81st Judicial District Court, La Salle County, Texas Trial Court No. 13-02-00046 CVL Honorable Donna S. Rayes, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice, Marialyn Barnard, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Marialyn Barnard, Justice

         Appellants, Delma Ramirez Deleon, Irma Gomez, Josefina Castor, Olga Ramirez Niaves, Oralia De La Rosa, Gloria R. Dunford, and San Juanita R. Rodriguez, appeal the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of appellees, Oliverio C. Ramirez and Maria Luisa Ramirez, in a dispute over title to a 151.77 acre tract of land in LaSalle County (the "Property"). The title dispute hinges on whether a deed from Martha Ramirez to Oliverio and his wife Maria Luisa was a gift deed which conveyed only Martha's interest in the Property or a community survivor deed which conveyed all of the community property interest in the Property. In addition to arguing the deed was a gift deed, the appellants also contend: (1) Oliverio and Maria Luisa were not innocent purchasers of the Property because they had notice of its community character; (2) Oliverio and Maria Luisa could not acquire title to the Property because they were cotenants with the appellants; and (3) Oliverio and Maria Luisa are estopped from asserting ownership. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         Gregorio and Martha Ramirez were married in 1941, and they had thirteen children, including appellants and Oliverio. Gregorio inherited a 1/13 interest in the Property from his parents which was his separate property.[1] Gregorio and Martha purchased the remaining 12/13 interest in the Property from the other heirs, and the 12/13 interest became Gregorio and Martha's community property. In order to acquire the 12/13 interest, Gregorio and Martha borrowed $12, 600.00 from the Farmers Home Administration and executed a deed of trust to secure the loan.

         Gregorio died intestate in 1976, and his estate was never probated. On November 1, 1993, the FHA sent Martha a letter stating she was required to refinance the loan which had an approximate balance of $7, 955.85. On November 19, 1993, Martha sent a letter to the FHA stating her request to refinance with a different lender was denied. In early 1994, Martha, fearing foreclosure based on her inability to refinance the loan, approached Oliverio and Maria Luisa about buying the Property.

         On March 9, 1994, Martha signed a deed conveying the Property to Oliverio and Maria Luisa. The deed recited the following consideration:

Love and affection Ten Dollars and other valuable consideration, which includes but is not limited to payment of the outstanding balance, if any, of one certain note, executed by maker, dated July 29, 1969, in the sum of $12, 600.00, payable to Farmers Home Administration, United States of America, Department of Agriculture.

         That same day, Oliverio and Maria Luisa paid off the FHA loan and obtained both a transfer of lien and a release of lien which were filed in the real property records. Between 1994 and 2003, Oliverio and Maria Luisa purchased the interest of five of Oliverio's siblings. The appellants are Oliverio's other seven siblings.[2]

         In 2013, the appellants filed the underlying lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the ownership of the Property. The parties subsequently filed competing motions for summary judgment. After a hearing, the trial court granted Oliverio and Maria Luisa's motion and denied the appellants' motion. In its order, the trial court found the presumption of a gift was overcome and that the 1994 deed from Martha to Oliverio and Maria Luisa was a community survivor deed that conveyed the entire community property interest of Martha and Gregorio to Oliverio and Maria Luisa.

         Standard of Review

         To prevail on a traditional motion for summary judgment, the movant must show "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the [movant] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); see also Diversicare Gen. Partner, Inc. v. Rubio, 185 S.W.3d 842, 846 (Tex. 2005). We generally review a trial court's granting of a summary judgment de novo. Valence Operating Co. v. Dorsett, 164 S.W.3d 656, 661 (Tex. 2005). Where, as here, the parties file competing motions for summary judgment, and the trial court grants one and overrules the other, we "determine all questions presented, and if the trial court erred, render the judgment the trial court should have rendered." Sw. Bell Tel., L.P. v. Emmett, 459 S.W.3d 578, 583 (Tex. 2015).

         Gift Deed v. ...


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