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Judges affirm son not entitled to dad’s deathbed gift of cars

March 9, 2017

A son whose father deeded him two vehicles on his deathbed must return those vehicles to his father’s estate after the Indiana Court of Appeals found Thursday that the son had not overcome the presumption of undue influence.

In Jay Garrison v. Pamela Garrison, 27A05-1603-EU-507, Thomas Garrison, while on his deathbed, transferred title on two cars to his son, Jay Garrison. Upon Thomas Garrison’s death, his widow, Pamela Garrsion, as personal representative of the state, contested what she deemed to be inter vivos gifts of the cars to her husband’s son and sought to have them retuned to the estate because her husband had not been competent to make that decision.

During a contested hearing, witnesses testified that Thomas Garrison maintained similar behavior leading up to his death, but his widow testified that his behavior had changed drastically and that his mental health deteriorated along with his physical health. Based on that testimony, the Grant Superior Court concluded that evidence of Thomas Garrison’s competency to make a causa mortis gift was evenly split, so Jay Garrison was ordered to return the two vehicles to his father’s estate.

Jay Garrison appealed, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision Thursday.  

Senior Judge Randall Shepard, drawing on precedent in Lucas v. Frazee, 471 N.E.2d 1163, 1166 (Ind. Ct. App. 1984), wrote in the appellate opinion that “establishment of the existence of certain relationships, such as parent and child, (leads) to a presumption that the questioned transaction (is) the result of undue influence exerted by the dominant party…” Thus, in respect to the father-son relationship between Thomas and Jay Garrison, “the presumption of undue influence arose with respect to the transfer.”

Because the trial court found that the competency evidence in the case was evenly split, Jay Garrison was unable to rebut the presumption of exerting undue influence over his father. Thus, the estate is entitled to recovery of the vehicles, Sharpnack wrote.
 

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