Quitclaims and Partitions

Real estate is often one of the larger assets someone owns, and it can form the basis around which proper estate planning occurs. However, when no organized plan is put in place, then there is often room for issues and, in some cases, litigation. A surviving brother and sister recently found this out.
The deceased mother had two children, a son (B.F. Bunch) and a daughter (Honey Bunch). The mother once owned 35 acres of land. In 1994, the mother executed a quitclaim deed giving approximately 17 acres to herself and her daughter with rights of survivorship. The mother kept the remaining approximate 17 acres in her own name. The mother died in 2010 and in 2012, the daughter sued her brother for partition asking the court to either equitably divide the real estate or if that wasn't possible, to sell off the remaining 17 acres and split the proceeds between the brother and the sister. The brother also sued alleging that the 1994 quitclaim deed was the product of the daughter's undue influence over their mother, fraud and that the mother lacked capacity.
A trial eventually took place and the court at first ordered the property to be split, but after further disagreements between the siblings, ordered the property to be sold. The trial court also found that the 1994 deed was valid and thus the sister owned 17 acres outright, while the brother and sister owned the remaining 17 acres jointly. The court of appeals upheld the trial court, thus confirming the sale.
Although sad, it is far too common to see family members left arguing over money or property long after an ancestor passed away. In this case, proper estate planning may have helped avoid the litigation entirely. However, in the absence of such planning, hiring competent counsel to handle the litigation is important.
Honey Bunch v. B.F. Bunch, No. E2014-02121-COA-R3-CV, (Tenn. Oct. 15, 2015).