Legal Description of Property Controls Over Address in Texas Husband’s Quitclaim Deed to Wife

When one spouse transfers property to the other spouse by deed, there is a rebuttable presumption the property was gifted to the other spouse as separate property.  A deed must contain a sufficient description of the property.  In some cases, there may be mistakes or conflicting information in the deed.  When a court interprets a deed, it must determine the parties’ intent as expressed in the deed.  A wife recently challenged a court’s interpretation of a quitclaim deed and the resulting characterization of the property based on a deed that stated the address for one tract of land but the legal description of another.

The husband bought a house and 23 acres and paid off the mortgage before the marriage.  He also sold two of those acres and a mobile home before the marriage. The parties lived in the house on the 21-acre lot after the marriage.  They subsequently bought back the two-acre tract and the mobile home.

Quitclaim Deed

Before he petitioned for divorce, the husband signed a quitclaim deed that stated the address of the 21-acre tract, but the legal description of the two-acre tract.  The quitclaim deed described the property as 2 acres and identified the make, model, and serial number of the mobile home.  The wife asked the court to characterize the 21 acres and house as her separate property based on the quitclaim deed.  She argued the deed conveyed the house and 21 acres to her, but the husband contended that it referred to the two-acre tract and mobile home.

The husband testified he obtained the legal description from the county website and it included a lot number, the acreage, the subdivision, and serial number of the mobile home.  He also said the mobile home identified in the quitclaim deed was the one on the two-acre tract and not the mobile home on the 21-acre tract. He testified he thought the deed needed the mailing address, and that was why he used the address for the house.  He also testified he did not intend to give the wife any property and had changed his mind about giving her the two acres, despite signing the deed.

The trial court characterized the two acres and mobile home as the wife’s separate property and the 21 acres as the husband’s.  The trial court found credible the husband’s testimony that he only intended to convey the two acres and the manufactured home.

The Wife’s Appeal

The wife appealed, arguing the trial court erred in transferring her separate property to the husband because the street address on the quitclaim deed was a sufficient description of the property, the trial court abused its discretion, and there was insufficient evidence to support the judgment.

The appeals court noted the 21-acre tract was undisputedly the husband’s separate property when he entered the marriage.  When a person deeds property to their spouse, there is a rebuttable presumption the grantee received the property as separate property by gift.  Thus, the issue before the appeals court was whether the quitclaim deed raised the presumption that the husband gifted the 21-acre tract to the wife.

Texas case law has held that the legal description of the property from the appraisal district and the mailing address is sufficient to describe the property.  Specific provisions control when they conflict with general provisions in a deed.  Previous cases have held that the appraisal district’s legal description controls over a conflicting street address.

The wife argued that the deed was unambiguous.  She further argued that the street address was more specific and controlled over the legal description.  The appeals court disagreed, however.  Pursuant to Texas case law, the legal description is more specific and controls over a conflicting street address.  Additionally, the conflict did not create an ambiguity in the deed.  The appeals court concluded the quitclaim deed conveyed the husband’s interest in the mobile home and    he two acre tract.  The appeals court further found it did not convey interest in the 21 acre tract or raise a presumption the husband gifted that property to the wife.

The trial court did not commit error or abuse its discretion in confirming the larger tract was the husband’s separate property.  The appeals court affirmed the final divorce decree.

Contact McClure Law Group Today

If you are considering a divorce, you should consult with a skilled Texas divorce lawyer before transferring property to your spouse.  Set up a consultation with McClure Law Group by calling 214.692.8200.

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