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Womack v. Stegner

    Brief Fact Summary. D.R. Womack (Plaintiff) claimed title to land that he had received from his deceased brother, W.B. Womack. The deed authorizing the conveyance contained a blank for the name of the grantee. W.B. Womack died testate and under his will the property would have passed to his wife, Louise Womack. Louise Womack died prior to the filing of this suit and under her will the property in question would have passed to her brother, Harold Stegner (Defendant).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under Texas law, when a deed with the name of the grantee in blank is delivered by the grantor with the intention that the title shall vest in the person to whom the deed is delivered, and that person is expressly authorized at the time of delivery to insert his own or any other name as grantee, title passes with delivery.

    Facts. The Plaintiff claimed title in a suit in trespass to try title where he had received from his deceased brother, W.B. Womack, a deed conveying land in which the grantee’s name was left blank. W.B. Womack died testate and under his will the property would have passed to his wife, Louise Womack. Louise Womack died prior to the filing of this suit and under her will the property in question would have passed to her brother, the Defendant. Plaintiff testified that when his late brother delivered the blank deed to him, his brother stated that he, or anyone he desired, could be filled in on the blank. The testimony also showed that there was no consideration for the deed; that it was a gift. The trial court instructed a verdict against Plaintiff and Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue. Does title pass when a deed contains a blank in place of a grantee?

    Held. Yes, as long as the deed is delivered by the grantor with the intention that the title shall vest in the one whom the deed is delivered. Reversed and remanded for a new trial.
    Under Texas law, when a deed with the name of the grantee in blank is delivered by the grantor with the intention that the title shall vest in the person to whom the deed is delivered, and that person is expressly authorized at the time of delivery to insert his own or any other name as grantee, title passes with delivery.
    The effect of such a transaction as here is to vest an irrevocable power coupled with an interest in the person to whom the deed is delivered. Where there is a failure to fill in the blank, the instrument coupled with the authority to fill in the blank, is sufficient to vest equitable title in a person to whom the deed is delivered.
    The equitable title passed at the time of the delivery of the deed, and the death of the grantor prior to the exercise of the grantee’s authority is immaterial.
    A deed does not have to be supported by consideration to be a valid deed. A deed may be in the form of a gift, needing no consideration.

    Discussion. Of course, it would be wise, were one to receive a deed in blank, to promptly record it in favor of one’s self. Thereafter, should one desire to give the title to another, the title could pass under a separate deed. Recordation is an important part of title law, and one having an interest in property should record the deed conveying such interest as soon as possible after the conveyance is made, in order to avoid confusion and litigation.


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