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Owings v. Owings

Decided: January 27, 1964.

OWINGS ET AL.
v.
OWINGS



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Carroll County; Boylan, Jr., C. J.

Henderson, Hammond, Prescott, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Hammond, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Hammond

The appellants, a son and daughter of an aged mother, seek to reverse the decree which set aside a deed of trust from their mother to them as trustees, for her benefit for life, with remainder to the daughter and the transfer of one of the mother's bank accounts to them as trustees and of another to them individually.

The appellee, Mrs. Owings, who said she was seventy-three but, according to her daughter, was seventy-nine, had lived some thirty-five years in one side of a double house she owned in Westminster. The other side was rented. Her husband, from whom she seemingly had been separated or divorced, had died. In December 1960 she had a stroke and one leg became weak and she suffered falls. She went to the home of her son, Theodore, where she stayed for about a month. Her daughter-in-law was not physically able to continue to lift her when she fell and give her the care she needed otherwise while the son was away at work. Mrs. Owings' doctor had told the children, in her presence, that having had one stroke she was likely to have another, which would be completely disabling and that a deed of trust would enable the children to administer their mother's property. The doctor also recommended that Mrs. Owings go to a nursing home.

On January 7, 1961, the secretary of a lawyer who, at the

request of the children, had prepared a deed conveying the double house in trust, took the deed to the son's house where, in the presence of the son and daughter, she read it to Mrs. Owings, who signed and acknowledged it. The trustees signed it.

The next day Mrs. Owings was taken to the nursing home. She went unhappily, complained while she was there, and after four months left by herself and went back to her home.

The deed of trust recited that the grantor "being of advanced age" feels she can no longer properly manage the house and desires her children, the trustees, to "care for and manage the same for her use and benefit, during her lifetime * * *." The trustees are directed to pay the net rental income to Mrs. Owings "or to her use, benefit, support or care" during her life and for her burial expenses. A power to sell is given and power to use the principal of the proceeds of sale and the interest therefrom for the same purposes as the rental income. At the grantor's death the daughter is to receive the house or what remains of the proceeds of sale thereof, free of trust.

Mrs. Owings says that although the deed was read to her she did not understand anything in it and never did know what was in it until her lawyer told her after she got out of the nursing home. She testified that the secretary who brought the deed to her told her that under the deed the children "will always look after you." She says she was weak, depressed because she did not know if she would ever walk again, and "I signed it to please them."

The secretary, and the son and the daughter testified that Mrs. Owings did understand what the deed meant. While in the nursing home Mrs. Owings called the secretary to find out if there was anything in the paper she signed that could make her stay in the home.

The day after Mrs. Owings went to the nursing home, the son took her bank books and transferred her funds, totalling some $5,500, into two new accounts. The first was a checking account in the names of the son and daughter as trustees, opened with a deposit of about $2,500. The other account was a savings account of $3,000 in the names ...


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