Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso
IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF JOSEPH ABRAHAM, JR., A/K/A JOSEPH (SIB) ABRAHAM, JR.
from Probate Court No. 1 of El Paso County, Texas (TC #
McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.
CRAWFORD MCCLURE, CHIEF JUSTICE
community property that passes hands on the death of a spouse
does so subject to the debts of that deceased
spouse. Before the debts are all paid, however,
the surviving spouse is accorded a statutory mechanism to
obtain legal title to a portion of the community property in
an estate by partitioning the property. To do so,
however, the surviving spouse must post a bond sufficient to
account for the community property being withdrawn from the
estate and obtain court approval.
case, Margaret Abraham, Appellant here, did not follow that
statutory scheme. Rather, she executed a deed assigning her
interest in community property land to a relative and did so
with an effective date prior to the date of death. The estate
representative filed a summary judgment to set aside that
deed, which the probate court granted. Finding no error in
that ruling, we affirm.
(Sib) Abraham, Jr., a noted El Paso trial lawyer, passed away
on July 4, 2014. He was survived by his wife, Margret
Abraham, a son, William D. Abraham, and several
grandchildren. His will appointed his wife Margaret as
Independent Executrix. She renounced that role, however, and
the probate court appointed a granddaughter, Asia Zaragoza,
as the Dependent Administrator of the estate. Later, Ms.
Zaragoza stepped down, and the court appointed Albert Bloxom
as the Successor Dependent Administrator. He is the Appellee
here, and we refer to him as the Administrator. The will
lists Margaret as the sole beneficiary, with Sib's
grandchildren as alternate beneficiaries. William Abraham is
not a beneficiary under the will. Multiple creditors filed
notices of claims against the estate.
appeal focuses on one asset in Sib's estate. According to
an assumption deed dated June 1, 1982, Sib Abraham acquired a
parcel of land located at 415 E. 7th Street, in downtown
Austin. The original assumption deed bears only Sib's
name. However, Sib acquired that property while he was
married to Margaret. Jointly filed tax returns and an estate
inventory treat the parcel as community property, an
assertion not challenged on appeal. In 2011, Sib pledged the
property as security for a $497, 000 promissory note payable
to GEM Real Estate Investments. That entity filed a claim in
the probate proceeding for the outstanding balance owed on
November 7, 2014 (four months after Sib's death), William
Abraham recorded a different assumption warranty deed in
Travis County that purported to transfer the 7th Street
property from Sib to William. The deed reflected that Sib
signed the instrument on January 7, 2013, some six months
before his death. His signature was notarized by Texas
notary, Jackie Brackett. That is where this story takes its
first odd turn--Brackett later executed an affidavit stating
in relevant part she notarized the deed after Sib died:
• Approximately three to four months after the death of
Joseph 'SIB' Abraham, Jr., William 'Billy'
Abraham called me at home and asked me to meet him . . . . At
that time, Billy indicated that he finally found the deed to
the Austin property and that he needed me to notarize it for
• The deed he presented was entitled Assumption Warranty
Deed, . . . [and] already had what appeared to be the
signature of Joseph 'SIB' Abraham, Jr. on the second
page. The signature was dated January 7, 2013.
• At that time, I realized that my notary stamp was too
new for the date on the Assumption Warranty Deed. Billy asked
me to retrieve my old notary stamp from my house.
• I then notarized the Assumption Warranty Deed. Once I
finished notarizing the Assumption Warranty Deed, Billy
indicated that he was going to Austin to personally file it
as soon as possible.
• Since his incarceration, Billy has sent me other
documents, including deeds, for me to notarize. I did not
feel comfortable notarizing those documents and gave them
back to Charlene ...