Property II, Pages 716–719

Blancett v. Blancett

Supreme Court of New Mexico, 2004

Facts:

Plaintiff gave two deeds to his son's wife in 1993. Both reserved a life estate in plaintiff. One then conveyed a remainder to his son, defendant, while the other conveyed a remainder in the mineral estate of the same property to both of his sons. The deeds described more land than plaintiff owned, but he did not notice and intended them only as a "stop-gap estate planning tool" until he could draft more formal documents.

He told his son that he intended the delivery to be a conditional conveyance and told him not to record the deeds unless he died or did something "crazy" before finishing the more formal documents. Plaintiff then spent four years drafting more formal estate planning documents, which included disposing of some of the same property without realizing it. After plaintiff executed his estate documents, which conveyed less land to defendant than the deeds did, defendant recorded the 1993 deeds. Plaintiff then filed complaint to nullify the 1993 deeds, claiming that because he expressly conditioned the conveyance, the physical transfer did not constitute legal delivery.

Procedural History:

  • Trial court agreed with plaintiff and nullified and rescinded the deeds.

  • Court of appeals affirmed.

Plaintiff's Argument:

Because plaintiff expressly conditioned the conveyance, the physical transfer did not constitute legal delivery.

Defendant's Argument:

Conditions must be on the face of the deed. Oral conditions are not binding on deeds.

Issues:

  • Did plaintiff's oral condition prevent legal delivery?

  • Did plaintiff have intent to make a present conveyance?

Rule:

LexisNexis IconGoogle Scholar LogoPage 716, Bottom

An effective legal delivery of a deed requires

  1. intent by the grantor to make a present transfer and
  2. a transfer of dominion and control.
It is well settled in New Mexico that a grantor's intent is central and may be determined from words, actions or surrounding circumstances during, preceding or following the execution of a deed.

Rule/Holding:

LexisNexis IconGoogle Scholar LogoPage 713, Paragraph 2

[P]hysical delivery of a deed to a grantee creates a presumption of legal delivery, which a grantor may then rebut with evidence that he or she lacked intent to make a present transfer.

Reasoning:

  • Past precedent has held that conditions do not have to be expressed in the deed itself.

  • Several things point to plaintiff's lack of intent:

    1. Plaintiff told defendant not to record the deed unless he died or did something "crazy."
    2. Plaintiff testified as to his lack of intent.
    3. Plaintiff subsequently did formal real estate planning.
    4. Defendant waited 8 years to record the deeds, until learning that he stood to receive less property.

Holding:

Plaintiff lacked the intent to make a present conveyance, which prevents legal delivery. Affirmed.