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In re Estate of Casebeer

Court of Appeals of Oregon

April 24, 2019

In the Matter of the Estate of Robert S. Casebeer, Deceased.
v.
Kathleen B. KROCKER, Personal Representative, Respondent. Carol Ann CASEBEER, Appellant,

          Argued and submitted November 16, 2018

          Lane County Circuit Court 16PB04858 Lauren S. Holland, Judge.

          Laurie R. Hager argued the cause for appellant. Also on the briefs were William G. Fig and Sussman Shank LLP.

          George W. Kelly argued the cause and fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Shorr, Judge.

         Case Summary: This case involves a dispute over the rightful ownership of real property between the estate of decedent (husband) and decedent's former wife (wife). The couple had dissolved their marriage prior to husband's death, and husband had been awarded the disputed property in the stipulated judgment of dissolution of marriage. Upon husband's death, wife claimed ownership of the property based on a quitclaim deed that purported to give her a right of survivorship. The estate argued that the quitclaim deed was security on a promissory note, required by the dissolution judgment, under which husband had agreed to pay wife an equalizing payment for her share of the couple's equity in the property. Husband had satisfied the note before his death, which, the estate argued, had cancelled the quitclaim deed by operation of law. The trial court entered a judgment declaring that (1) wife had no interest in the property, (2) husband had sole title at the time of his death, and (3) the estate was the rightful owner. Wife appeals. Held: The trial court did not err. Husband and wife intended the quitclaim deed to serve as security on the promissory note rather than as a conveyance deed. As a result, wife had no extant interest in the property once the [297 Or.App.259] underlying debt was paid, and husband retained sole title to the property, which passed to his estate at the time of his death.

         Affirmed.

         [297 Or.App.260] SHORR, J.

         This case involves a dispute over the rightful ownership of a property in Springfield, Oregon (the property), between Kathleen Krocker, as personal representative for the estate of Robert Casebeer (husband), and Carol Ann Casebeer, decedent's former wife (wife).[1] Pursuant to the couple's stipulated judgment of dissolution of marriage, husband had sole possession of the property in the 15 years between the dissolution of the marriage and his death. Upon husband's death, wife took possession of the property and claimed ownership thereof based on a quitclaim deed that purported to give her a right of survivorship. The personal representative sought a declaration from the trial court that husband had sole title to the property at the time of his death and that the estate was therefore the rightful owner. The estate argued that the quitclaim deed was merely additional security on a promissory note required by the dissolution judgment, under which husband had agreed to pay wife a $40, 000 equalizing payment for her share of the couple's equity in the property. The estate presented uncontested evidence that husband had satisfied the note before his death, which, the estate argued, cancelled the quitclaim deed by operation of law.

         The trial court entered a judgment declaring that (1) husband had sole title to the property at the time of his death, (2) the property was an asset of husband's estate, and (3) wife had no legal interest in the property. Wife appeals and assigns error to those rulings. We conclude that the trial court did not err in declaring the parties' respective interests. The dissolution judgment required that husband provide the quitclaim deed as security for husband's promissory note to wife and, once the note was satisfied, wife's survivorship interest in the property was extinguished. Accordingly, we affirm.[2]

         [297 Or.App.261] I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         We begin with a summary of the relevant facts, which are undisputed. Husband and wife divorced in 2001. At the time of their divorce, the couple owned the Springfield property. The terms of the divorce, including the distribution of marital property between the parties, were established by a stipulated dissolution judgment. The dissolution judgment, which was entered in June 2001, described the interrelated interests that both husband and wife-respondent and petitioner, respectively, in the language of the judgment-had in the Springfield property:

"Respondent is awarded as his sole and separate property the [Springfield property], free and clear of any claim on the part of Petitioner. * * *
"Respondent is in the process of refinancing said real estate. After the completion of the refinance, and in order to equalize the distribution of assets between the parties, Respondent shall execute a note and trust deed in Petitioner's favor in the sum of $40, 000. *** In addition, and after the recording of the trust deed, Respondent shall execute a Quitclaim Deed in favor of Petitioner and Respondent, said real property to be held not as tenants in common, but with right of survivorship."

         The dissolution judgment then provided:

         "The Petitioner shall be paid her $40, 000 of equity in the marital home when the home is sold or refinanced, whichever may occur first. If the home is not sold or refinanced and the Petitioner outlives the Respondent, then she shall become sole owner of said property by right of survivorship. If the Respondent outlives the ...


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