Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harbin v. Williams

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

December 18, 2019

Jerald Lamar Harbin, Special Fiduciary of the Franklin N. Harbin and Edna F. Harbin Living Trust, Appellant,
v.
Susan H. Williams, George T. Williams, Citifinancial Inc., and CFNA Receivables (SC) Inc., Defendants, Of whom Susan H. Williams is the Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2017-001924

          Submitted October 1, 2019

          Appeal From Greenwood County Donald B. Hocker, Circuit Court Judge.

          Charles M. Watson, Jr., of Greenwood, for Appellant.

          Donna J. Jackson, of Clinton, for Respondent.

          THOMAS, J.

         In this declaratory judgment action, Jerald Lamar Harbin, Special Fiduciary of the Franklin N. Harbin and Edna F. Harbin Living Trust, appeals the circuit court's denial of his motion for a directed verdict on the issue of a co-settlor's authority to transfer property from a trust to Susan H. Williams. Jerald argues the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion for a directed verdict; (2) submitting the issue of a co-settlor's authority to the jury; and (3) denying his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. We affirm.

         FACTS

         On January 16, 2000, Franklin N. and Edna F. Harbin created the Franklin N. Harbin and Edna F. Harbin Living Trust (the Trust). The same day, Franklin conveyed a farm on Old Laurens Highway and the property at issue, the Harbins' home at 313 Lakeshore Drive (the home property), to the Trust.

         The Trust named Franklin and Edna as settlors of the Trust. Article 2 of the Trust provided, "The Settlors shall act as Trustees during their lives. Upon the death or incapacity of either Settlor, the other Settlor shall act as Trustee alone." Article 3 provided, "While both Settlors are living, either may: (1) withdraw property from this Trust . . . ." Article 4 provided for the Trust property to be divided equally among the children of the Trustees "[u]pon the death of both Settlors."

         On March 31, 2000, Franklin and Edna conveyed the farm from the Trust to their son, Stephen Harbin.[1] Franklin died on June 23, 2000. On November 30, 2005, Edna, acting as Trustee, conveyed the home property to herself for life with the remainder to her daughter, Susan Williams. On January 10, 2008, Edna and Susan mortgaged the home property. Edna died on March 21, 2011.

         Jerald Harbin was appointed Special Fiduciary of the Trust and filed this action seeking a declaration that the home property was part of the Trust. Jerald relied on Article 3, arguing it required both settlors to be alive to withdraw property from the Trust. Susan answered, demanding a jury trial.

         At a pretrial hearing, Jerald agreed to a jury trial. Susan argued the Trust was ambiguous. The trial court found there was "no ambiguity in the Trust document. But, even if I were to find an ambiguity, it would be a patent ambiguity and no extrinsic evidence is allowed . . . ." The court stated that although the Trust was subject to different interpretations as to whether Edna had the authority to transfer the home property, it was not "the same thing as ambiguity," and the question of Edna's authority was for the jury. Jerald argued, "[I]n light of your rulings, there is nothing to submit to the jury." The court disagreed. At trial, James Johnson, an attorney, testified he represented Franklin and Edna. He reviewed the Trust in 2000 and learned Susan and her husband were living with and taking care of Franklin and Edna in the home property. Johnson met with Franklin, Edna, and Susan to discuss the home property. However, the deed transferring the home property to Susan was not executed until 2005, after Franklin's death.

         At the close of all evidence, Jerald moved for a directed verdict on the ground there was no genuine issue of material fact, and he was entitled to a directed verdict as a matter of law. The court found "the Trust document itself does create an issue in (sic) fact." Thus, the court denied the motion. The court charged the jury that the sole issue before it was to determine whether Edna had the authority under the Trust to transfer the home property. The jury found Edna had the authority under the Trust to deed the property. This appeal followed.

         LA ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.