Interests Held In A Joint Tenancy With Right Of Survivorship Are Not Exempt From Execution

Lesson.  Unlike spouses jointly holding real estate as a tenancy by the entireties, real estate co-owned under joint tenancy is subject to a lien arising from a judgment against one of the joint tenants. 

Case cite.  Flatrock River Lodge v. Stout, 130 N.E.3d 96 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019)

Legal issue.  Whether an ownership interest in real estate as a joint tenant with right of survivorship is exempt from execution on a judgment lien created during the owner’s lifetime.

Vital facts. In 1985, a couple deeded forty-six acres of real estate in Rush County to their son and their granddaughter as joint tenants with right of survivorship.  In 2016, a creditor obtained a $40,000 judgment against the son, at which time the Rush County Clerk entered the judgment in the record of judgments.  The son died in 2018, and his interest in the real estate became the granddaughter’s.  In other words, the granddaughter became the owner of all forty-six acres.      

Procedural history.  In January 2018, the judgment creditor moved to foreclose its judgment lien on the real estate.  The granddaughter intervened in the action and asserted that the son’s interest was exempt from execution because their interests were held jointly.  While the action was pending, the son passed away.  The trial court ultimately granted the granddaughter’s objection to the creditor’s motion.  The creditor appealed.

Key rules. 

As stated here many times, in Indiana “a money judgment becomes a lien on the defendant’s real property when the judgment is recorded in the judgment docket in the county where the realty held by the debtor is located.”

Ind. Code 34-55-10-2(c)(5) is the statute providing that “’[a]ny interest that the debtor has in real estate held as a tenant by the entireties’ is exempt from execution of a judgment lien.”

The Court in Flatrock identified the three forms of concurrent ownership in Indiana - (1) joint tenancy, (2) tenancy in common, and (3) tenancy by the entireties – and then contrasted joint tenancy with tenancy by the entireties:

A joint tenancy is a single estate in property owned by two or more persons under one instrument or act. Upon the death of any one of the tenants, his share vests in the survivors. When a joint tenancy is created, each tenant acquires an equal right to share in the enjoyment of the land during their lives. “It is well settled that a conveyance of his interest by one joint tenant during his lifetime operates as a severance of the joint tenancy as to the interest so conveyed, and [it] destroys the right of survivorship in the other joint tenants as to the part so conveyed.” Each joint tenant may sell or mortgage his or her interest in the property to a third party.  And the interest of each joint tenant “is subject to execution.” On the other hand, a tenancy by the entireties exists only between spouses and is premised on the legal fiction that husband and wife are a single entity.

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The same difference which existed at common law between joint tenants and tenants by entireties continues to exist under our statute. In both, the title and estate are joint, and each has the quality of survivorship, but the marked difference between the two consists in this: that in a joint tenancy, either tenant may convey his share to a co-tenant, or even to a stranger, who thereby becomes tenant in common with the other co-tenant; while neither tenant by the entirety can convey his or her interest so as to affect their joint use of the property during their joint lives, or to defeat the right of survivorship upon the death of either of the co-tenants; and there may be a partition between joint tenants, while there can be none between tenants by entireties.

(I’ve omitted legal citations in the above quotes.)

Holding.  The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and held that the real estate was not immune from execution on the judgment lien.  “We hold that subsection 2(c)(5) does not exempt from execution interests held in a joint tenancy with right of survivorship.”

Policy/rationale.  The granddaughter generally contended that real estate held jointly should be exempt from execution.  Thus, she sought to apply the I.C. 34-55-10-2(c)(5) exemption to a joint tenant with right of survivorship.  The granddaughter improperly equated the two tenancies, however.  The Court was compelled to follow the clear language in the exemptions statute, which applied only to tenancy by the entireties in which one spouse may not unilaterally convey or mortgage his interest to a third party and in which the property “is immune to seizure for the satisfaction of the individual debt of either spouse.”  To the contrary, a joint tenant may sell or mortgage his interest to a third party.  The Court also pointed out that the granddaughter took the son’s interest in the real estate subject to the judgment lien, which was not extinguished upon his death. 

As an aside, the Court stated that, if a third party were to buy the son’s interest at the execution (sheriff’s) sale, the purchaser and the granddaughter would each own an undivided interest as tenants in common.  As a practical matter, the outcome of the Flatrock appeal likely compelled the granddaughter to pay off the lien, assuming she had the means.

Related posts. 

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I represent lenders, loan servicers, borrowers, and guarantors in foreclosure and real estate-related disputes. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.


Indiana Supreme Court Currently Reviewing Statute Of Limitations Rules Applicable to Promissory Notes

Indiana law is clear that actions to enforce promissory notes have a six-year statute of limitations.  The trickier question surrounds when the clock starts ticking on the six years.  The law frames this issue as:  when does the cause of action accrue

Over the last couple years, three cases before the Indiana Court of Appeals have tackled that question in the context of promissory notes with optional acceleration clauses.  I’ve already written two posts about one of those cases, Collins Asset Group v. Alialy

On 4/5/19, the Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the second case, Stroud v. Stone, 122 N.E.3d 825 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), which followed Alialy and held that a lender can’t sue over six years after a payment default simply by accelerating the note.  Then, on 6/12/19, in Blair v. EMC Mortgage, 127 N.E.3d 1187 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), the Court of Appeals followed suit in the third case and concluded that the lender had waited an unreasonable time amount of time to accelerate its note. 

Based upon these three decisions by the Court of Appeals, Indiana law appeared to be settled on the accrual issue.  Specifically, to absolutely safe, in Indiana, a lender’s suit to enforce a promissory note should be filed within six years of the borrower’s last payment.  Or, at a minimum, assuming the note has an optional acceleration clause, the debt should be formally accelerated within six years, and it would be advisable to file suit within a period of time thereafter that is reasonable under the circumstances.

There has been a development, however.  Alialy and Blair are now before the Indiana Supreme Court.  (Stroud is not - officially.)  Under Indiana rules of procedure, the Alialy and Blair opinions have therefore been vacated.  We are left to wait on our Supreme Court’s holding.  I expect an opinion during the first half of 2020, at which point some of the questions raised in my two posts about Alialy should be answered.  Stand by.

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I represent parties in disputes arising out of loans. If you need assistance with a such a matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.


Seller’s Delivery Of Defective Or Non-Conforming Equipment To Buyer/Borrower Did Not Impair Lender’s Rights In the Collateral

Lesson.  A borrower’s complaints about equipment it purchases and pledges as loan collateral do not affect a lender’s rights in the collateral. 

Case cite.  1st Source v. Minnie Moore Resources, 2019 WL 2161679 (N.D. Ind. 2019) (PDF).

Legal issue.  Whether a creditor (lender) lacked an enforceable security interest in debtor’s equipment because the equipment differed from what the debtor (borrower/owner) thought it was purchasing.

Vital facts.  Lender loaned borrower money to buy three pieces of mining equipment worth about 350k.  The loan was secured by the equipment pursuant to a security agreement and a UCC financing statement.  Borrower defaulted on the loan, and lender sued to foreclose on the equipment.  Borrower contended that the equipment was defective, and varied from what the borrower had ordered from the seller.  The seller was not a party to the lawsuit. 

Procedural history.  Lender filed a motion for summary judgment.  1st Source is the summary judgment opinion and order entered by the U.S. District Court for the Norther District of Indiana.

Key rules.  1st Source essentially is about Article 9.1 attachment.

“A security interest will attach and be enforceable when three elements are present: (1) value has been given; (2) the debtor has rights in the collateral; and (3) the debtor has authenticated a security agreement that provides a description of the collateral.”  “Perfecting a security interest is only necessary to make the security interest effective against third parties; a security interest is enforceable “as between the secured party and the debtor” upon meeting the three requirements for attachment.”

The UCC clarifies what is sufficient for a description of the collateral: “a description of personal or real property is sufficient, whether or not it is specific, if it reasonably identifies what is described.”  I.C. § 26-1-9.1-108(a).  The Court noted, “that can be done by providing a ‘specific listing’ or a ‘category,’ or by ‘any other method, if the identity of the collateral is objectively determinable.’ Id. § 26-1-9.1-108(b).

Holding.  The Court granted lender’s motion for summary judgment and held that lender was entitled to take possession of and foreclose on the equipment.

Policy/rationale.  Borrower asserted two contentions in support of its argument that the security agreement was unenforceable:  (1) the security agreement did not identify the model years of the equipment and (2) there were discrepancies in the serial numbers between those on the equipment and those identified in the security agreement.  Basically, borrower asserted that the equipment it purchased was slightly older and less valuable than the equipment it intended to buy.    

On the first contention, the Court concluded that the security agreement reasonably identified the collateral.  Evidently there is no law supporting the proposition that a model year must be included in a security agreement to reasonably identify the collateral. 

On the second contention, the promissory note identified each piece of equipment by its name, serial number, and purchase price, and it directed lender to disburse loan proceeds directly to the seller.  The minor numerical error in a serial number “would not create a genuine question as to what equipment the parties intended to serve as collateral.”        

The Court summed up its finding as follows: 

[borrower’s] complaint that the equipment is defective and nonconforming is a dispute for [it] to take up with Interval Equipment Solutions, which sold the equipment.  It does not affect [lender’s] rights in the collateral, so [lender] is entitled to exercise its rights in that collateral.

Related posts. 

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My practice includes the representation of parties in disputes arising out of loans. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.


Unrecorded Deed Immediately Transferred Ownership

Lesson.  An unrecorded quitclaim deed executed and delivered during owner’s lifetime terminated a beneficiary’s interest under a “transfer on death” deed that had been executed previously.  An Indiana deed generally will effect a transfer regardless of whether it is recorded.

Case cite.  Robinson v. Robinson, 125 N.E.3d 1 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019).

Legal issue.  Whether subsequent, unrecorded quitclaim deed revoked a beneficial interest in real estate that previously had been created by a recorded transfer on death (TOD) deed.

Vital facts.  On October 24, 2014, Mom executed a TOD deed in which the fee simple title in her house would transfer, upon her death, to her kids Rea and Radley as tenants in common.  Mom recorded that deed on November 12, 2014.  Two years later, Mom executed and delivered a quitclaim deed of the house to Rea only, effective immediately.  However, this subsequent deed was not recorded until after Mom died.

Procedural history.  Radley filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce the TOD deed.  The trial court entered summary judgment in Radley’s favor and concluded that Radley and Rea owned the house as tenants in common.  Rea appealed.

Key rules.  Indiana has a statute called the Transfer on Death Property Act (ACT) at 32-17-14.  The Indiana Court of Appeals sliced and diced the Act in terms of its application to the Robinson dispute. 

The TOD deed was valid.  However, Section 19(a) of the Act provides, among other things, that a beneficiary of a TOD deed takes the owner’s interest in the property at the time of the owner’s death and subject to all conveyances made by the owner during the owner’s lifetime.

Indiana Code 32-21-1-15 controls quitclaim deeds.

In Indiana, generally “a party to a deed is bound by the instrument whether or not it is recorded.”

Holding.  The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary judgment for Radley and entered summary judgment for Rea.  “As a matter of law, Radley’s contingent interest in the real estate was extinguished before [Mom’s] death.” 

Policy/rationale.  If you have probate and estate issues under the Act, the Robinson opinion has a nice explanation of why the TOD deed did not hold up.  For purposes of mortgage servicing and title issues, the key takeaway is that, as to Radley (one of potential co-owners under the TOD deed), the quitclaim deed to Rea cut off Radley’s beneficial interest - even though the deed was never recorded.  The deed complied with Ind. Code 32-21-1-15.  Title passed.  The fact that the deed had not been recorded was immaterial to Radley’s claim to ownership.

Related posts. 

*Don’t Forget To Record The Deed

*Sampling Of Indiana Deed Law, And Judgment Lien Attachment Issues

*In Indiana, An Unrecorded Mortgage Has Priority Over A Subsequent Judgment Lien

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I represent lenders, loan servicers, borrowers, and guarantors in foreclosure and real estate-related disputes. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.  


Deeds In Lieu Of Foreclosure: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

In the event a loan becomes non-performing, commercial lending institutions that hold mortgages in Indiana need to be familiar with deeds in lieu of foreclosure.  They are a form of settlement.

Who.  The parties to a deed in lieu are the mortgagor (generally, the borrower) and the mortgagee (usually, the lender).  Both sides must consent.  Most lawyers will say that it isn't advisable to accept a deed in lieu if there are multiple lien holders.  Lenders will have to negotiate releases of those liens in order to secure clear title.  The better approach may be to proceed with foreclosure, which will wipe out such liens.   

What.  A deed in lieu of foreclosure is a document that conveys title to real estate.  What is unique about this particular deed is that the mortgagor surrenders its interests in the real estate to the mortgagee in consideration for a complete release from liabilities under the loan documents.  The release, among other things, usually is articulated in a separate settlement agreement.  But, a release is not automatic.  

When.  Lenders normally pursue deeds in lieu when there is no chance of collecting a deficiency judgment - the mortgagor is judgment proof.  For example, this option makes sense with non-recourse loans.  Another consideration is when the value of the property unquestionably exceeds the amount of the debt.  If the lender thinks it may be able to liquidate the real estate for more than the borrower owes, pursuing a money judgment may be superfluous.

The parties typically will explore a deed in lieu of foreclosure early on in the dispute - once a determination is made by the lender to foreclose.  Although this is the point in which deeds in lieu are best utilized, in Indiana it's possible to execute the deed right up until the time the property is sold at a sheriff's sale.

Where.  Deeds in lieu are the product of out-of-court settlements.  The process of the securing of a deed in lieu is non-judicial. 

Why.  The fundamental reasons why a lender may want to take a deed in lieu of foreclosure involve time and money.  A deed in lieu grants to the lender immediate possession of the real estate.  Several months, conceivably years, can be saved.  Just as importantly, spending thousands of dollars, primarily in attorney's fees, could be avoided by cutting to the chase with a deed in lieu.  Expediency and expense are the primary factors that motivate lenders to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure. 

How.  Other than the obvious - executing a deed - there are certain steps a lender should consider taking before it enters into a deed in lieu.  The lender should know whether it is acquiring clear title.  A title insurance policy commitment should be ordered to examine the status of any liens, taxes and other potential clouds on title.  Work also may need to be done to get a handle on the value of the property.  This may include an appraisal, an inspection or an environmental assessment.  These things generally are recommended when evaluating how to proceed with any distressed loan.

    Anti-merger clause:  One potential land mine must be specifically highlighted here.  Without getting too technical, in Indiana there needs to be language in the deed protecting against a merger of the mortgagor's fee simple title and the mortgagee's lien interest, which merger could extinguish the mortgagee's rights under the mortgage.  Without the appropriate language expressing the intent of the parties in the deed, the lender's interest in the property could become subject to junior liens without the right to foreclose.  So, be sure that you or your lawyer inserts an anti-merger clause into the deed.

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My practice includes the representation of parties in disputes arising out of loans. If you need assistance with a similar matter, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at john.waller@woodenlawyers.com. Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page. 


Top 10 Foreclosure Blogs

The Founder of Feedspot has advised that Indiana Commercial Foreclosure Law is ranked second in its Top 10 listing of foreclosure-related blogs.  Here is a link to the site's list:  Top 10 Foreclosure Blogs & Websites To Follow in 2019.  Thanks to the folks at Feedspot for recognizing my work. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to those who regularly read, or surf to, this blog.  Let's keep it going in 2020....

John