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Hamlin v. Hamlin

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 10, 2015

Victoria HAMLIN, personally and in her capacity as Personal Representative of the Estate of Joan E. Hamlin, deceased, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Patrick L. HAMLIN, Defendant-Appellant, and Rinde E. HAMLIN and Tyler Blackman, Defendants

Argued and Submitted: November 13, 2014.

Washington County Circuit Court. C115274CV. Andrew Erwin, Judge.

Margaret H. Leek Leiberan argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs was Jensen & Leiberan.

Matthew Whitman argued the cause and filed the briefs for respondent.

Before Lagesen, Presiding Judge, and Haselton, Chief Judge, and Edmonds, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 738

[271 Or.App. 649] LAGESEN, P. J.

This case arises out of a family dispute regarding the parties' deceased mother's intent in deeding an interest in her house to her son (defendant). The trial court found that, in conveying the interest in the house to defendant, the parties' mother intended defendant to hold the property in trust for the beneficiaries of her will, including her daughter (plaintiff) and defendant. Based on that finding, the trial court entered a judgment that, among other things, declared that defendant held the house as trustee of a resulting trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the parties' mother's will.[1] On appeal from that judgment, defendant assigns error to the trial court's finding that the parties' mother intended that defendant would hold the property in trust, arguing that the trial court erred by considering evidence extrinsic to the deed conveying the property to defendant and, in particular, by considering evidence of defendant's conduct after the parties' mother had executed the deed to defendant, in reaching that finding. Defendant further contends that that evidence--even if properly admitted--is insufficient to support the trial court's factual finding that the parties' mother had transferred the property to defendant to hold in trust for the beneficiaries of her will. We affirm, concluding that the trial court permissibly considered evidence extrinsic to the deed, including evidence of defendant's conduct subsequent to the execution of the deed, in determining whether defendant's mother conveyed the property to him to hold in trust.[2] We further conclude that the evidence in the record is sufficient to support the trial court's finding that the parties' mother intended for defendant to hold the property for the benefit of her estate's beneficiaries.

Plaintiff and defendant are sister and brother. After their father died in 2002, plaintiff and the parties' mother, Joan, had numerous conversations about Joan's estate, including the family home and Joan's bank accounts. [271 Or.App. 650] In those conversations, Joan indicated to plaintiff that she wanted to have the property transfer smoothly to her heirs upon her death outside of the probate process. Joan discussed with plaintiff the necessity of putting one of her children on both the title to the house and the accounts in order to accomplish that goal. Joan first asked if she could put plaintiff's name on both the title and the accounts; however, plaintiff recommended putting defendant's name on

Page 739

the property because defendant, unlike plaintiff, lived in the area. Plaintiff understood that the purpose of putting the house in defendant's name was " ease of transfer" when Joan passed away and that the transfer would occur " according to [Joan's] will."

In September 2005, Joan executed a bargain-and-sale deed, conveying, as grantor, " Lot 55, EMERALD ESTATES, No. 2, Washington County, State of Oregon" to herself and defendant, as grantees. On the title company's " Application for Exemption from Washington County Transfer Tax" form, under the " Required Information" heading, Joan completed the section under the subheading " If transfer is a Gift" (rather than the section under the subheading " If transfer is by devise or inheritance" ). Both Joan and defendant signed that form, as well as a " Settlement Statement" that listed Joan and defendant as the " buyers." The deed did not specify that Joan and defendant would hold the property jointly with a right of survivorship. Plaintiff was not present when the deed was executed, although Joan later told her that she had put defendant on the title to the house and on Joan's bank accounts.

Joan died in October 2008. Because the bargain-and-sale deed did not state that the 2005 conveyance to defendant had been with a right of survivorship, upon Joan's death, the deed, as written, had the effect of transferring a one-half undivided interest in the residence to Joan's estate, subject to probate, and a one-half undivided interest to defendant not subject to probate, although Joan's intention in putting defendant on the deed to the house had been to avoid probate.

Upon Joan's death, defendant initially behaved as if he held the house in trust for the beneficiaries of Joan's [271 Or.App. 651] estate. Defendant began cleaning, repairing, and painting the premises, using funds from Joan's bank account that was now titled in his name. Defendant also used that account to pay the property's bills.[3] In May or June of 2009, when the home was ready to be put on the market, defendant approached plaintiff about moving into the house himself. ...


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