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Andrews v. Carter

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

BETTY ANDREWS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ALICE CARTER, ANTHONY CARTER, CASSIUS ROBINSON, and DENA ROBINSON, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K. Vaudt, Judge.

         Plaintiff appeals the district court decision quieting title to certain real property in defendant Alice Carter.

          David L. Leitner of Leitner Law Office, West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Robert Oberbillig and Brian Shea (law student) of Drake Law School Legal Clinic, Des Moines, for appellees the Carters.

          Cassius Robinson and Dena Robinson, Ankeny, appellees pro se.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Betty Andrews appeals the district court decision quieting title to certain real property in Alice Carter. We find Ruby Smiley intended for Alice to have present title to the property, without any reservation of control, when she gave Alice a quit claim deed to the property. We also find Betty has not established the right to establish a constructive trust by clear, convincing, and satisfactory evidence. We affirm the decision of the district court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Ruby Smiley was the mother of Betty Andrews and Alice Carter. Ruby and her husband, Charlie Smiley, obtained a warranty deed for their home at 1530 16th Street in Des Moines in 1999.

         In 2002, Ruby wrote a letter which stated if Charlie did not want to live in the house after she died, he should sell it and split the proceeds between Betty and Alice. In 2005, Ruby wrote another letter, stating the house should go to Charlie on her death, but if he did not want it, the house should be sold and the proceeds split between Betty and Alice. In February 2007, Ruby wrote a document stating Charlie should have two-thirds of the proceeds from the house if she predeceased him.

         Ruby and Charlie transferred the property to Alice, for no consideration, by a quit claim deed on March 30, 2007.[1] On August 14, 2008, Alice signed a quit claim deed placing the property in her name and that of Ruby, again for no consideration. Alice testified Ruby asked her to do this because Ruby wanted to receive FEMA assistance with the home. On October 15, 2008, Ruby obtained a mortgage on the home and signed a property lien. On April 16, 2009, Ruby signed a document pertaining to a disaster relief grant as the homeowner of the property.

         Ruby and Charlie continued to live in the home until their deaths-Charlie in 2010, Ruby in 2011. On June 14, 2013, Alice transferred her interest in the property to Cassius and Dena Robinson by a quit claim deed for the stated consideration of $12, 500.

         On January 28, 2016, Betty filed a petition to quiet title, claiming Ruby transferred title to the property to Alice to facilitate management of her assets but intended for the house to be sold at Ruby's death and the proceeds divided equally between Betty and Alice.[2] Betty claimed Alice held the property ...


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