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In re Marriage of Green

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

July 31, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF NAINA LYNNE GREEN AND JOHN BERNICE MCDANIEL

         Appeal from the 1st District Court of Sabine County, Texas (Tr.Ct. No. 4258)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          James T. Worthen Chief Justice.

         Naina Lynne Green appeals the trial court's final divorce decree, which characterized certain real property known as "God's Country RV Park" (the RV park) as part of the community property of her marital estate with John Bernice McDaniel. In one issue, Green argues that the RV park was her separate property, which McDaniel gave her as a gift during their marriage. We affirm.

         Background

         Green and McDaniel were married for over fifteen years when Green filed for divorce in July 2015. The undisputed evidence at trial showed that they established the RV park during their marriage. Green introduced into evidence a recorded quitclaim deed from McDaniel to her, dated October 23, 2012, transferring his interest in the RV park to her. The quitclaim deed stated the consideration given was "cash and other good and valuable consideration, a receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby acknowledged, paid from grantee's separate property." But, at trial, Green testified that McDaniel's intent in signing the quitclaim deed was to give her the RV park as a gift.

         McDaniel testified that at the time he executed the quitclaim deed, he had been having heart problems. He further testified that he had seen numerous heart doctors about this condition. McDaniel stated that at the conclusion of his appointments with these doctors, Green stayed behind to talk with the doctors. McDaniel further stated that what was said during these conversations was not audible to him, but afterward, Green would tell him that "the doctor said it really wasn't good[;] you may not be with us very long." McDaniel testified that after a number of these conversations with Green, he agreed to sign the quitclaim deed.

         Green arranged for an attorney, whom McDaniel never had met, to prepare the quitclaim deed. McDaniel testified that when he signed the quitclaim deed, he told the drafting attorney he was doing so "just in case I pass away or something happens to me." McDaniel further testified that he told the attorney that it was not his intention to transfer his interest in the RV park to Green unless something terrible happened to him.

         Ultimately, the trial court rendered a Final Decree of Divorce, which characterized the RV park as community property and awarded one-half of it to Green and one-half of it to McDaniel. The trial court entered the following conclusions of law regarding its division of the RV park:

12. Respondent denied execution of the deed for the property known as "God's Country R.V. Park" and testified that it was procured through forgery or fraud, and the deed purported to be dated October 23, 2012, lacked an acknowledgment or notary. The Notary did not testify to assert otherwise.
13. Grantor spouse was a party to the deed and subject to the parole evidence rule.
14. Grantor spouse was not involved in having or directing the preparation of the deed. The deed recited only a cash consideration. The deed failed to state the property was conveyed as spouse's sole and separate property. Grantor spouse did not intend to make a gift of property to grantee spouse. Although, a deed from one spouse as grantor to the other spouse as grantee creates a presumption that the grantee spouse received the property as separate property, the presumption was rebutted by fraud, allegations of forgery, the plain language of the deed, the lack of donative intent from the grantor and the lack of a recitation in the deed as grantee[']s sole and separate property.

         This appeal followed.

         Characterization ...


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