“Trust Transfer Deed” Fails to Accomplish Transmutation

  A “Trust Transfer Deed” that purportedly granted husband’s interest in real property to wife failed to accomplish a transmutation.

  Pursuant to Family Code section 852(a) a transmutation is not valid unless made in writing by an express declaration by the party adversely affected. To satisfy the “express declaration” requirement the writing must state on its face that the characterization or ownership of the property is being changed. Extrinsic evidence is not permitted to prove an ambiguous writing. Therefore, the express declaration must unambiguously indicate a change in character or ownership of property for a valid transmutation.

  In Marriage of Begian and Sarajian, husband argued that the “Trust Transfer Deed” contained two critical ambiguities. First, its title – “Trust Transfer Deed” — suggests the transfer is associated with a trust. Second, the conveyance language failed to state what interest was being granted. Taken together, the conveyance language is reasonably susceptible to the interpretation that husband granted his community interest to be held in trust, and not to effect a change in the character or ownership of the property.

  The Court of Appeal agreed. Since the deed did not contain an express statement specifying what interest in the property was granted, the reference to a “Trust Transfer” leaves the document’s purpose ambiguous, and thus renders the purported transmutation invalid under section 852(a).


  Mr. Daymude consults with clients and accepts cases involving real property, including real property transfers by deed. For other types of cases accepted, please scroll the Home and My Practice pages. If you are seeking legal representation, call Michael Daymude at 818-971-9409. Have a question about this post? Write a comment.

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