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
driving force for the disputants here is whether a piece of
property passed from father to son before the father's
death, or whether it is part of the deceased father's
estate, subject to the provisions of a will and the claims of
creditors. The deciding issue, however, is whether Appellant,
William Abraham, has presented a sufficient record and
arguments to convince us that the probate court erred in
granting summary judgment invalidating a deed that
purportedly transferred the property. He has not, and we
affirm the judgment below.
(Sib) Abraham, Jr., a noted El Paso trial lawyer, passed away
on July 4, 2014. His will appointed his wife, Margaret, as
Independent Executrix. She declined 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 our Appellee
here, and we refer to him as the Administrator. In addition
to his wife, Sib Abraham was also survived a son, William D.
Abraham, and several grandchildren. The will lists Margaret
as the sole beneficiary, with Sib's grandchildren as
alternate beneficiaries. William Abraham is not a beneficiary
under the will.
case arises out of a particular estate asset. 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 deed showed only Sib as the buyer. Sib acquired
that property, however, while he was married to Margaret, and
jointly filed income tax returns, as well as an inventory
filed by Ms. Zaragoza in her role as the dependent
administrator, treated the Austin land as community property;
no party has contested that claim. In 2011, Sib pledged the
property as security for $497, 000 promissory note payable to
GEM Real Estate Investments. That entity filed a claim in the
probate proceeding for the outstanding balance on the note.
Other creditors filed numerous claims against the estate
based on various secured and secured notes.
November 7, 2014 (four months after Sib's death), William
Abraham caused to be recorded an 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 turn--Brackett later executed an affidavit stating in
relevant part that she actually notarized deed after
• 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 Enriquez, who is helping Billy while he is
Abraham later filed a lis pendens claiming to be the true
owner of the property. He filed an original petition in the
probate proceeding seeking to vindicate his claim to the
Austin property. That petition alleges that he bought the
property around 1985 from Sib through a series of
transaction. The ...