Catron v. First Nat. Bank & Trust Co. of Tulsa, 40475

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Citation1967 OK 107,434 P.2d 263
Docket NumberNo. 40475,40475
PartiesLora Louise CATRON, Plaintiff in Error, v. The FIRST NATIONAL BANK & TRUST CO. OF TULSA, Oklahoma, a corporation, as Executor of the will and estate of J. M. Catron, deceased, and LeRoy Earl Catron, Donald Jesse Catron, Fred Charles Catron and Marvin Clay Catron, Defendants in Error.
Decision Date25 April 1967

Syllabus by the Court.

1. A resulting trust arises where the legal estate in property is disposed of, conveyed, or transferred, but the intent appears or is inferred from the terms of the disposition, or from accompanying facts and circumstances, that the beneficial interest is not to go to, or be enjoyed with, the legal title. In such a case a trust is implied or results in favor of the person whom equity deems to be the real owner.

2. All instances of constructive trusts may be referred to what equity denominates fraud, either actual or constructive, including acts or omissions in violation of fiduciary obligations. If a party obtains legal title to property in such an unconscionable manner that he cannot equitably retain the property which really belongs to another, equity carries out its theory of a double ownership, equitable and legal, by impressing a constructive trust upon the property in favor of the party who is in good conscience entitled to it, and who is considered in equity as the beneficial owner.

3. The burden is upon the party alleging the existence of a trust by operation of law to prove the facts giving rise to the trust by evidence that is clear, unequivocal, and decisive.

4. In cases of equitable cognizance, where the proof is required to be clear, unequivocal, and decisive, this court on appeal will weigh the evidence to determine if it satisfies this standard of proof, but will not reverse the decision of the trial court unless it is clearly against the weight of the evidence.

5. During the effective period of the Community Property Act of 1945, all property acquired by the husband and the wife, during marriage, from whatever source, except property acquired by gift, devise or descent or received as compensation for personal injury, constituted community property with ownership vested equally in the husband and the wife.

6. If separate property is so confused, blended, or commingled with community property that its identity is lost, the entire mass ordinarily becomes community property, unless the community component is comparatively small.

7. The statute repealing the Community Property Act of 1945 provides that no action or proceeding of any character to establish or recover an interest in community property may be brought more than three years after the effective date of the repealing statute, unless the interest asserted has previously been established of record. 32 O.S.1961, § 83.

8. The statute of limitation will run during coverture to bar the claim of a wife against her husband, who purportedly holds property in trust for her benefit, where the husband clearly repudiates the claim and the wife is put on notice of the repudiation.

9. The judgment of the trial court will not be set aside on appeal for improper rejection of evidence unless it appears from the entire record that the error complained of has probably resulted in a miscarriage of justice, or constituted a substantial violation of a constitutional or statutory right.

Appeal from the District Court of Tulsa County; Hon. Raymond W. Graham, Judge.

Action by surviving widow against executor and other devisees under husband's will to establish a trust by operation of law for her benefit in the estate of deceased husband. The trial court entered judgment for defendants and plaintiff appeals. Judgment affirmed.

Farmer, Woolsey, Flippo & Bailey, by Robert J. Woolsey, Tulsa, for plaintiff in error.

John Adkison, Gable, Gotwals, Hays, Rubin & Fox, Tulsa, for defendants in error.

HODGES, Justice.

The plaintiff, Laura L. Catron, instituted this suit against the defendant, The First National Bank & Trust Co., Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Executor of the will and estate of J. M. Catron, and the defendants, LeRoy Earl Catron, Donald Jesse Catron, Fred Charles Catron and Marvin Clay Catron, all the sons of J. M. Catron, to establish a trust by operation of law for her benefit in one half of the estate of her deceased husband, J. M. Catron.

The plaintiff and Mr. Catron established a common law marriage in 1937. They went through a ceremonial wedding in Arkansas in 1952. Both parties had been married previously. Mr. Catron had four sons by his first marriage, defendants in this action. Mrs. Catron had one son by her first marriage, not involved in this dispute. Mr. and Mrs. Catron had no children from their union. Mr. Catron was 65 years of age at his death, on December 29, 1959, and Mrs. Catron was 53.

At the time of their marriage in 1937, neither Mr. Catron nor the plaintiff possessed any substantial assets, but during the period of the marriage a sizable estate was accumulated. The estate was valued at $286,821.76 by the appraisal of the executor bank, and has subsequently appreciated in value to more than $400,000.00. Record title to all property forming the estate was in the name of Mr. Catron except the homestead which was in joint tenancy with the plaintiff. It is clear that Mr. Catron possessed keen business judgment, an aptitude for investment, and a talent for making money. Mrs. Catron was not gainfully employed during the marriage, and contributed little, if any, direct service to the business endeavors of her husband, but it is not disputed that she fulfilled her marital duties and responsibilities as a wife to the deceased.

Under his will, Mr. Catron left one third of his estate in trust to his wife, the plaintiff, and two thirds of his estate to be divided equally among his four sons, the defendants. Ownership of the homestead, valued at over $25,000.00, vested in the plaintiff by virtue of the joint tenancy arrangement. The will provided that the plaintiff should receive $1,000.00 per month for life from the portion of the estate held in trust for her. The plaintiff elected to take the property devised to her under the provisions of the will rather than her statutory share which would also have been one third of the estate (free of the trust). The plaintiff approved the general inventory and appraisement of the estate by the Executor and the estate tax returns. Later the plaintiff concluded that her share of the estate would probably be insufficient to provide her an income of $1,000.00 per month for the remainder of her life. She then instituted this suit asserting that one half of the estate was being held in trust for her by operation of law and should be set aside to her as the owner thereof. She further contends that the half of the estate belonging to her husband should be charged with $80,000.00 lost in useless oil ventures and with $12,000.00 in gifts made by the deceased to his sons without her consent.

In addition to the claims of one-half ownership and that Mr. Catron's portion of the estate should be charged with $92,000.00 expended in oil ventures and gifts, the plaintiff continues to assert the right to receive one third of the remainder of the estate, in trust, under the terms of Mr. Catron's will. The net effect of the plaintiff's claims is that she should receive approximately three fourths of the property of the estate in addition to the homestead. The defendants contend that the plaintiff's entitlement is limited to one third of the estate and the homestead, as provided in Mr. Catron's will. Assuming the present value of the estate to be approximately $400,000.00, the plaintiff's position is that she is entitled to about $300,000.00 and the four defendants are entitled to about $25,000.00 each; while, under the terms of the will, her share would be about $133,333.00, and each of the defendants would receive about $66,667.00.

The trial of this case consumed seventeen days. Both parties presented numerous witnesses including friends and relatives of Mr. and Mrs. Catron, and business associates of Mr. Catron. Both the plaintiff and the defendants introduced testimony of, and exhibits compiled by, certified public accountants in an attempt to determine the sources of income and to trace the use of funds from various individual and joint bank accounts of Mr. and Mrs. Catron. Because of a lack of records, either lost or destroyed, including bank statements and cancelled checks, particularly for the years from 1945 through 1949, the conclusions of the accountants for both parties is to a considerable extent based on conjecture and speculation. The evidence presented was in conflict to a significant extent and the inferences drawn by the parties from the evidence not in conflict are irreconcilable.

The trial court concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish a trust by operation of law as alleged by the plaintiff, that the ownership of the property comprising the estate was vested in the deceased, and that judgment should be rendered for the defendants. The plaintiff appeals to this court from that judgment and the order of the trial court overruling her motion for a new trial.

On appeal the plaintiff contends that she is the beneficiary of a trust arising by operation of law for an undivided one-half interest in all property acquired by her husband in his name by virtue of the fact that this property was purchased by her husband with their joint assets. 60 O.S. 1961, § 136(3). According to the plaintiff, this trust for her benefit may be considered to be either a resulting trust or a constructive trust.

A resulting trust was defined in Gammel v. Enochs, Okl., 353 P.2d 1106:

'A resulting trust arises where the legal estate in property is disposed of, conveyed, or transferred, but the intent appears or is inferred from the terms of the...

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24 cases
  • Smith v. Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, 97,110.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • June 25, 2002
    ...and the repudiation is brought to the attention of the cestui que trust.]. See also, Catron v. First Nat'l Bank & Trust Co. of Tulsa, 1967 OK 107, ¶ 31, 434 P.2d 263 [In order to set statute of limitations in motion on constructive trust, clear repudiation of trust must occur and beneficiar......
  • In the Matter of The EState Edward Metz v. Pense, 106,807.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • April 5, 2011
    ...v. Robbins, 1969 OK 13, 451 P.2d 961 (a trust may be established by parol evidence); Catron v. First Nat'l Bank & Trust Co. of Tulsa, 1967 OK 107, ¶ 9, 434 P.2d 263, 267 (parol evidence, though considered, held insufficient to impose trust); Peyton v. McCaslin, 1966 OK 4, ¶ 10, 417 P.2d 316......
  • Nichols v. Nichols, 103,950.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • June 23, 2009
    ...Co., Inc., 1997 OK 74, 944 P.2d 292; Jones v. Jones, 1969 OK 147, ¶ 9, 459 P.2d 603, 604; Catron v. First Nat'l Bank & Trust Co. of Tulsa, 1967 OK 107, ¶ 31, 434 P.2d 263; Becker v. State ex rel. Dep't of Public Welfare, 1957 OK 102, ¶ 0 syl. 6, ¶ 40, 312 P.2d 935, 942; McGee v. Harrison, 1......
  • In re Marriage of Owens, 119920
    • United States
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    • February 14, 2023
    ...(1914)). Wife made no such claim at the hearing, so the attorney did not testify. [22] See Catron v. First Nat. Bank & Trust Co. of Tulsa, 1967 OK 107, ¶ 21, 434 P.2d 263, 270 ("The numerous realty transactions, the intermingling of funds in various bank accounts, the lost or missing record......
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