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Daniels v. Daniels

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

June 24, 2014

LANA DANIELS
v.
BRENDA DANIELS

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, John F. Fader, II, Judge.

Argued bye: Cynthia E. Young of Annapolis, MD. for Appellant.

Argued by: James M. Dore of Sykesville, MD. for Appellee.

Panel: Meredith, Nazarian, Sharer, J. Frederick (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ. Opinion by Sharer, J.

OPINION

Page 122

[217 Md.App. 407] Sharer, J.

It is established that, in order to effectively convey title to real property, the title documents -- ordinarily a deed -- must be delivered by the grantor to the grantee. An exception to the requirement of actual delivery is found in the doctrine of constructive delivery.

[217 Md.App. 408] In the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, the court ruled that the conduct of James H. Daniels, which we shall detail, infra, did not satisfy the requirements of either actual or constructive delivery of a deed by Daniels to his wife, appellant, Lana Daniels. Hence, the court, after a bench trial, entered judgment for appellee, Brenda Daniels, Personal Representative of the Estate of James H. Daniels.

In her timely appeal, appellant presents the following question:

Does constructive delivery of a deed occur where the husband executes a tenants by the entireties deed, informs his wife, and places the unrecorded deed with the couple's important papers?

For the reasons set forth below, we answer this question " no" and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

FACTUAL and PROCEDURAL HISTORY

James H. Daniels (" Daniels" ) died intestate. Appellee, Brenda Daniels, his daughter from a former marriage, qualified as personal representative of his estate. In her capacity, Brenda filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County to quiet title, which sought to have real property at 1602 Frederick Road, Catonsville, included as an asset of the estate. The suit to quiet title asserted that paper title to the property was based on a deed, recorded in 1987, to Daniels and his mother, Emily Daniels, as joint tenants. Upon Emily Daniels's death in 2005, Daniels became the surviving owner.

At the time of his death, Daniels was residing with appellant, Lana Daniels. Appellant asserts ownership of 1602 Frederick Road by virtue of a deed that was executed by her husband and witnessed and notarized on March 3, 2006, naming himself and appellant as tenants by the entireties. The deed was not recorded until May 12, 2011, after Daniels's death.

Daniels's execution of the deed on March 3, 2006, occurred during a meeting with his stepdaughter, Leslie Robin Cadey, an escrow closer and underwriter, and Ingrid Chichester, a [217 Md.App. 409] notary and title officer. Chichester witnessed Daniels sign the deed and notarized his signature. Cadey testified that Daniels retained possession of the deed, despite her advice that he have it recorded. Daniels, for some reason, did not follow that advice and, as we

Page 123

shall discuss, placed the deed among his and appellant's personal papers in their home.

At the time the deed was executed, and thereafter for some time, appellant was in Texas receiving medical treatments. She related to the court that when she returned home, Daniels informed her that " he had added her name on the deed."

Appellant testified that on the day of her husband's death, her daughter, Cadey, was helping her locate a life insurance policy in a bedroom file cabinet that held " all of our important papers." The cabinet contained, inter alia, personal documents, insurance policies, and the deed to their marital residence at 2407 Hammonds Ferry Road. During the search, Lana and Cadey came upon a file folder containing the executed deed to 1602 Frederick Road. Appellant had not placed the deed in the cabinet, so she concluded that her husband had done so. Upon finding the deed, Cadey asked appellant why it had not been recorded. Their assumption was that, because ...


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