First Christian Church in Salem v. McReynolds

CourtSupreme Court of Oregon
Writing for the CourtBefore BRAND; WARNER
Citation241 P.2d 135,194 Or. 68
Decision Date27 February 1952
PartiesFIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN SALEM v. McREYNOLDS et al.

Page 135

241 P.2d 135
194 Or. 68
FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN SALEM
v.
McREYNOLDS et al.
Supreme Court of Oregon.
Argued and Submitted Jan. 22, 1952.
Decided Feb. 27, 1952.

Page 136

[194 Or. 70] Merlin Estep, Jr., of Salem, argued the cause for appellants. On the briefs were Hewitt, Estep & Sorensen, of Salem.

Roy Harland, of Salem, argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.

Before BRAND, C. J., and ROSSMAN, LUSK, LATOURETTE and WARNER, JJ.

WARNER, Justice.

This is a suit instituted by the plaintiff-respondent, The First Christian Church in Salem, Oregon, a corporation, for a declaratory judgment decreeing and adjudging that the plaintiff, as grantee, is the owner in fee simple and entitled to the immediate possession of certain real property in the city of Salem, Oregon, under a deed dated October 14, 1943, wherein Mary J. McReynolds, now deceased, was the grantor and wherein the grantor reserved a life estate to herself. The defendants are the only heirs and next of kin of the said Mary McReynolds and the wives of such heirs as are married, included for the apparent purpose of barring such rights of inchoate dower as they might have therein. From

Page 137

a decree and declaration in favor of plaintiff and against defendants, they appeal.

For a long time prior to October 14, 1943, and up to the date of her death, Mary McReynolds was a [194 Or. 71] devoted member of the plaintiff church, regularly participating in its services and activities and enjoying the consolation and solicitude of its pastor and members.

On or about December 2, 1943, she was adjudged insane in the circuit court for Marion County, Oregon, and 21 days thereafter she was released from the state hospital on parole to her sister, Mrs. Rose Voris. Coincident with the application for her commitment, Joan McReynolds, then the wife of the defendant, Floyd V. McReynolds, her son, petitioned for appointment as guardian of her person and estate. The request for his appointment was resisted by Mary McReynolds, resulting in the appointment of William Thielsen to that office on January 7, 1944. He continued in that capacity up to and including Mrs. McReynolds' death. Mary McReynolds was formally discharged from the state hospital on September 13, 1944. After her release as a parolee, she continued to make her residence in the city of Salem, living most of the time on the subject property until about the time that she died testate on September 11, 1948. The property was always operated as a rooming house attracting persons of modest income and sometimes of a nondescript character. At the time of her death she was approximately 82 years of age.

On this appeal the defendants allege two assignments of error, the substance of which was pleaded as two of the three separate defenses which they tendered in their answer to plaintiff's complaint: (1) that Mary McReynolds lacked mental capacity sufficient to execute the deed of October 14, 1943; and (2) that the deed is void by reason of alleged undue influence exercised upon her by the members and officers of the plaintiff church.

[194 Or. 72] We turn to a consideration of the defendants' first assignment of error which challenges the competency of the grantor. Mental capacity to execute a deed is measured as of the date of the execution and delivery of the instrument. Legler et al. v. Legler, 187 Or. 273, 308, 211 P.2d 233; 28 Am.Jur., Insane and Other Incompetent Persons, 697, § 59; 26 C.J.S., Deeds, § 54, P. 261. The deed, as we have noticed, was executed on the 14th day of October, 1943. The date of delivery is less certain. The minutes of the meeting of the church trustees held on November 7, 1943, carry a direction for the deed's recording. This was done on November 8. How long before November 7 the deed was delivered we do not know. In the absence of more exact information, we will assume that it was on November 7, approximately three weeks after the grantor formally acknowledged its execution before Ronald Glover, her attorney, friend and confidant.

A grantor is required to possess greater competency in the execution and delivery of a deed than a testator is required to possess in executing a will. Legler et al. v. Legler, supra, 187 Or. at page 307, 211 P.2d 233, 247; Billiam v. Schoen, 176 Or. 356, 364, 157 P.2d 682. The reason for this, as said in the Legler case, is that 'Generally, a grantor, unlike a testator, must cope with another party to the transaction, that is, with a grantee.'

The test of mental capacity to make a deed requires that a person shall have ability to understand the nature and effect of the act in which he is engaged and the business which he is transacting. Legler et al. v. Legler, supra, 187 Or. at page 308, 211 P.2d 233; Laughlin v. Ludgate, 138 Or. 442, 450, 6 P.2d 20; Miller et al. v. Jeffery et al., 129 Or. 674, 687, 278 P. 946. In the Miller and Legler cases we pointed out that a grantor must be able to reason, to exercise judgment, to transact ordinary [194 Or. 73] business and to compete with the other party to the transaction. In 6 Thompson, Real Property (Perm. ed.) 66, § 2982, it is said: '* * * It is not requisite, however, that he should be able to manage his business with judgment and discernment, or in a proper and prudent manner, for many sane men can not do this * * *.' We have repeatedly held that neither old age, sickness, debility of body nor extreme distress incapacitates a party from disposing of his property, if he has

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possession of his mental faculties and understands the business in which he is engaged. See Swank v. Swank, 37 Or. 439, 445, 61 P. 846, and cases there cited.

To sustain their position the defendants lean heavily upon the grantor's subsequent commitment to the state hospital on December 2, 1943, and the appointment of a guardian for her which closely followed. These events transpired two or three months after the execution of the deed and one or two months after its delivery, i. e., if we adopt November 7 as the delivery date. Here the earlier dates of execution and delivery are the determining factors. Legler et al. v. Legler, supra.

In any event, the presumption of mental incapacity created by the appointment of a guardian is prospective in its operation from the date of the appointment and at best is only a disputable presumption which may be overcome by evidence to the contrary. In re Estate of Beer, 190 Or. 15, 21, 222 P.2d 1005; In re Provolt's Estate, 175 Or. 128, 131, 151 P.2d 736.

Appellants here are confronted with two rules which, by reason of the dating of the several transactions above referred to, take precedence over the presumption accruing by reason of the guardianship proceeding. The first rule to which we now refer presumes [194 Or. 74] the existence of mental competency prior to an adjudication to the contrary. As stated in 28 Am.Jur., Insane and Other Incompetent Persons, 751, § 121, it is: 'It is well settled that the law will presume sanity rather than insanity, competency rather than incompetency; it will presume that every man is sane and fully competent until satisfactory proof to the contrary is presented. * * * In accord with the general presumption of sanity, there is a presumption that every man is capable to managing his own affairs, and is responsible for his own acts. Likewise, it is presumed that every man is capable of understanding the nature and effect of his contracts, and that he comprehends the effect and result of legal proceedings. Accordingly, it may be stated that as a general rule, all proceedings testing the competency of a person, or involving the competency of an individual to perform a certain act, as to execute a valid conveyance of property or a contract, start with the presumption of competency, and that this presumption may be relied upon until the contrary is shown. Thus, it will be presumed that a grantor was sane and competent at the time he executed a deed. * * *.' Also see Schindler v. Parzoo, 52 Or. 452, 456, 97 P. 755.

The second rule is a corollary of the first, namely, that an adjudication of insanity by itself cannot relate to a prior time as evidence of incapacity. Schindler v. Parzoo, supra. Also see 44 C.J.S., Insane Persons, § 32(2), p. 90. This, however, may be overcome when it is shown ' that the mental condition of the ward had been the same for a considerable length of time, and was the same at the time of the act to be affected by it as when the adjudication was had * * *.' Schindler v. Parzoo,...

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19 practice notes
  • ROBERTS-DOUGLAS v. MEARES, No. 89-CV-55
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • November 3, 1992
    ...the doctrine of undue influence is stronger and more rigidly applied than in the case of wills." In First Christian Church v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 72, 241 P.2d 135, 137 (1952), the court observed that "[a] grantor is required to possess greater competency in the execution and delivery of......
  • MARRIAGE OF DAVIS
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Oregon
    • April 28, 2004
    ...some Oregon cases may be read as acknowledging the 89 P.3d 1211 superiority of the affective test. In First Christian Church v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 72-73, 241 P.2d 135 (1952), the court "[A] grantor5 must be able to reason, to exercise judgment, to transact ordinary business and to comp......
  • Schuler v. Schuler, No. 29460
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 15, 1956
    ...35, 26 S.W.2d 768; Kiehne v. Wessell, 53 Mo.App. 667; Richardson v. Smart, 65 Mo.App. 14; First Christian Church in Salem v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 241 P.2d 135; Schindler v. Parzoo, 52 Or. 452, 97 P. 755, that presumption is prospective in its operation from the date of the adjudication, ......
  • Anderson v. Brinkerhoff, No. 880122-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • June 9, 1988
    ...rather than incompetency, and will do so Page 100 unless proof to the contrary is presented. First Christian Church v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 241 P.2d 135, 137-38 (1952). Mental incompetency must be established by clear, cogent, satisfactory, and convincing evidence. Binder v. Binder, 50 W......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • ROBERTS-DOUGLAS v. MEARES, No. 89-CV-55
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • November 3, 1992
    ...the doctrine of undue influence is stronger and more rigidly applied than in the case of wills." In First Christian Church v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 72, 241 P.2d 135, 137 (1952), the court observed that "[a] grantor is required to possess greater competency in the execution and delivery of......
  • MARRIAGE OF DAVIS
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Oregon
    • April 28, 2004
    ...some Oregon cases may be read as acknowledging the 89 P.3d 1211 superiority of the affective test. In First Christian Church v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 72-73, 241 P.2d 135 (1952), the court "[A] grantor5 must be able to reason, to exercise judgment, to transact ordinary business and to comp......
  • Schuler v. Schuler, No. 29460
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 15, 1956
    ...35, 26 S.W.2d 768; Kiehne v. Wessell, 53 Mo.App. 667; Richardson v. Smart, 65 Mo.App. 14; First Christian Church in Salem v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 241 P.2d 135; Schindler v. Parzoo, 52 Or. 452, 97 P. 755, that presumption is prospective in its operation from the date of the adjudication, ......
  • Anderson v. Brinkerhoff, No. 880122-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • June 9, 1988
    ...rather than incompetency, and will do so Page 100 unless proof to the contrary is presented. First Christian Church v. McReynolds, 194 Or. 68, 241 P.2d 135, 137-38 (1952). Mental incompetency must be established by clear, cogent, satisfactory, and convincing evidence. Binder v. Binder, 50 W......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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