In re Marriage of Begian and Sarajian
Facts: A married couple own residential property as joint tenants. The husband transfers his interest in the property to the wife as a gift, but the deed does not specify the nature of the vesting and is only entitled “Trust Transfer Deed.” Later, the couple dissolves their marriage.
Claim: The husband seeks to have the property classified as community property, claiming the transfer is invalid since the transfer deed does not specify the nature of the change in ownership.
Counter claim: The wife seeks to retain a separate interest in the property, claiming the transfer is valid since the deed represents a clear intent to transfer all interest in the property to her.
Holding: A California court of appeals holds the transfer is invalid and the property remains community property since the deed’s title and wording are ambiguous and do not specify the nature of the revesting. [In re Marriage of Begian and Sarajian (December 20, 2018) _CA6th_]
Editor’s note — Typically, the word “grant” in the conveyance provision of a grant deed indicates the conveyance of a fee simple interest to another individual, without the necessity of any other precise words of conveyance. Here, however, the court held that the nature of the vesting also needs to be specified. In other words, if you don’t make clear what you are granting, the grant deed is rendered ineffective.
In addition, by including the word “trust” in the title of the deed, the husband gave himself leeway to argue he only meant to gift the property to his wife in trust, and was thus not transferring all his interest in the property to her in perpetuity.