Face Challenges Confidently

239 Cavazo v. Cavazos

Monday, August 31st, 2015


Richard F. Brown

The following is not a legal opinion. You should consult your attorney if the case may be of significance to you.
Cavazos v. Cavazos 246 S.W.3d 175 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Nov. 14, 2007, pet. denied), holds that a deed description which requires extrinsic evidence to fill descriptive gaps in the deed must at least contain a “nucleus” description of the land, that a deed is effective upon delivery and acceptance, and that instruments executed at the same time will be construed as a single transaction. The case involved two deeds covering unrelated tracts. The “1976 Deed” involved the “Vela Land” which was owned by the Guardian of Berta Vela Cavazos, who was incompetent. One of Berta’s children, her son Manuel, conveyed to Manuel’s son (Manuel IV) and his wife, the following:


The court held that the construction of the 1976 Deed was a matter for the finder of fact and remanded. Manuel IV relied on prior cases holding that a description is sufficient if the deed conveys “my property” and extrinsic evidence shows there is only one tract fitting the property description in the deed. Manuel IV argued that the 1976 Deed was sufficient to  convey Manuel’s expectancy or future interest in Berta’s interest in the Vela Land. The court rejected Manuel IV’s argument by distinguishing the prior cases. Those cases all depended on words to the effect of “my interest” in a described area, but the 1976 Deed did not identify any interest as being Manuel’s interest. Rather, the 1976 Deed referred to “all that certain interest in the estate of Berta . . . that she is now in possession of.” The court also found there was no extrinsic evidence in the record to confirm that there was only one possible tract which could have been described by the 1976 Deed. Although Manuel IV presented hundreds of pages of subsequent documents, such as division orders, to support his claim, the court held the deed would still fail because the deed itself did not contain a “nucleus” description of the land. There is no further explanation as to the meaning of “nucleus.”
The second deed in the case, the “1992 Deed,” was a quitclaim deed from Manuel to one of his other children, Ernesto.  The 1992 Deed provided:

QUITCLAIMED (subject to a life estate in the name of [the 1992 Trust]) and by these presents DOES QUITCLAIM (subject to a life estate in the name of [the 1992 Trust]) to ERNESTO REYNA CAVAZOS . . . all of [Manuel’s] right, title, and interest in the [Cavazos Land].

Under the simultaneously executed 1992 Trust, Manuel conveyed all of his assets to the trust for the benefit of all four of his children. The evidence showed that Ernesto was a lawyer, and that the 1992 Deed and the 1992 Trust were executed on the same date, at the same time, before the same notary, all in Ernesto’s office.  Ernesto testified that the quitclaim deed was executed first.
Ernesto’s brother, Roberto, challenged the 1992 Deed and argued that the deed was not effective until delivered to the county clerk, which would obviously be after the 1992 Trust agreement was executed. The court quickly rejected that argument, because a deed is effective upon delivery to and acceptance by the grantee.
The significance of the case is that it reaffirms that a deed is effective upon delivery to and acceptance by the grantee, and it at least suggests that instruments executed at the same time as the deed will be construed with the deed. However, the fact that the 1992 Deed was executed before the 1992 Trust may have been determinative. Finally, for a deed of “my land” to be effective, there must be a “nucleus” description of the land in the deed itself, but “nucleus” is given no further definition or explanation.