THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS
PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.
THE STATE OF
In The Court of Appeals
Estate of Deloris G. Anderson, Respondent,
Linda Greene and Frank Greene, III, Appellants.
J. Michael Baxley, Circuit Court Judge
Unpublished Opinion No. 2006-UP-100
Heard January 11, 2006 – Filed February 17, 2006
AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED AND REMANDED IN PART
George E. Graham, of
Conway, for Appellants.
Johnny Morant, of
Georgetown, for Respondent.
PER CURIAM: Linda Greene and Frank Greene, III appeal the order of the circuit court affirming the probate court’s dismissal of their claims against the estate of Deloris Anderson for rents collected by
Anderson was the Greenes’ aunt. When
It was not until after
The probate court found that because the Greenes testified that their signatures on the deeds into them were forged, the deeds were not genuine and were “merely bogus documents.” Thus it held the Greenes could not prove title to the properties through the deeds. In addition, the court ruled that because Frank Sr.’s estate had never been probated and there had not been any quiet title action, the Greenes could not establish their title to the property as Frank Sr.’s heirs. On the Greenes’ claim for fraud, the court ruled they had failed to establish all of the essential elements for the cause of action. Thus, the probate court denied the Greenes’ claims against
1. Standard of review
The Greenes first argue the circuit court applied the incorrect standard of review in deciding the appeal of the probate court’s order. We disagree.
On appeal from the final order of the probate court, the circuit court should apply the same standard of review that the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals would apply on appeal. In re Howard, 315 S.C. 356, 361, 434 S.E.2d 254, 257 (1993). This appeal involves a claim for money due from an estate and a claim for fraud. As the circuit court correctly held, both are actions at law. See Howard v. Mutz, 315 S.C. 356, 362, 434 S.E.2d 254, 258 (1993) (stating a claim for money due from an estate sounds in law); Perry v. Heirs at Law and Distributees of Charles Gadsden, 313 S.C. 296, 301, 437 S.E.2d 174, 177 (Ct.App.1993) aff’d as modified by 316 S.C. 224, 449 S.E.2d 250 (1994) (stating fraud is an action at law unless an equitable remedy is sought). Thus, we hold the circuit court did not err in applying the standard of review for an action at law.
This standard of review provides: “on appeal of a case tried without a jury, the findings of fact of the judge will not be disturbed upon appeal unless found to be without evidence which reasonably supports the judge’s findings.”
Townes Associates, Ltd. v. City of
2. Ownership of property
The Greenes next argue the probate court erred in denying their creditor’s claim because they had not established an ownership interest in the properties.
We agree with the Greenes that the probate court committed an error of law by holding that the deeds into the Greenes were invalid due to the forged signatures. “Where the signature of one grantor on a deed is genuine but the signature of the other grantor is a forgery, the deed is only partially valid and is effective to convey only the interest of the grantor whose interest is genuine.” 23 Am.Jur.2d Deeds § 164 (2002). Neither party challenges the probate court’s conclusion that the Greenes’ signatures on the deed were forged. However, there was no evidence presented at the hearing that
In addition, we find the probate court erred in holding the Greenes failed to establish title or ownership to real property absent probate of Frank Sr.’s estate, a quiet title suit, or a confirmation of title action.
Title to real property vests in the heir or heirs immediately on the death of the intestate, subject to probate administration. Carter v. Wroten, 187 S.C. 432, 435, 198 S.E. 13, 15 (1938); S.C. Jur. Descent & Distribution, § 24 (1998). “In fact the proof of death of an intestate decedent raises the presumption that his real property descended to his heirs.” 28 S.C. Jur. Descent & Distribution § 24 (citing Pinkney v. Knowles, 112 S.C. 7, 10, 99 S.E. 354, 355 (1919)). From the record it appears the Greenes and Anderson were Frank Sr.’s heirs at law, that Frank Sr. owned the disputed properties, and that he died intestate. We find the probate court committed an error of law in holding the Greenes could not establish their rights to the properties absent probate administration of Frank Sr.’s estate or action to quiet title or confirm title. However, as it is unclear whether the Greenes and Anderson were Frank Sr.’s only heirs, the court on remand should determine the Greenes’ intestate interests in the properties and
Finally, the Greenes argue the probate court erred in finding they failed to establish a cause of action for fraud. We disagree.
In order to establish actual fraud, a party must prove:
(1) a representation; (2) its falsity; (3) its materiality; (4) either knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard of its truth or falsity; (5) intent that the representation be acted upon; (6) the hearer’s ignorance of its falsity; (7) the hearer’s reliance on its truth; (8) the hearer’s right to rely thereon; and (9) the hearer’s consequent and proximate injury.
Sorin Equip. Co. v. The Firm, Inc., 323 S.C. 359, 365, 474 S.E.2d 819, 823 (Ct. App. 1996). To establish constructive fraud, the party must establish all elements of actual fraud except the element of intent.
Ardis v. Cox, 314 S.C. 512, 516, 431 S.E.2d 267, 269 (Ct. App.1993). The failure to prove any element of fraud is fatal to the action.
The probate court held the Greenes failed to establish the element of misrepresentation. The Greenes maintained that they knew nothing about the deeds or the rents collected by
The Greenes correctly assert that “acts, conduct, or supression of the truth may constitute fraud.” See Carter v. Boyd Constr., 255 S.C. 274, 178 S.E.2d 536 (1971). However, “[n]on-disclosure becomes fraudulent concealment only when it is the duty of the party having knowledge of the facts to make them known to the other party to the transaction.” Lawson v. Citizens & S. Natl. Bank of S.C., 259 S.C. 477, 481-82, 193 S.E.2d 124, 126 (1972). Although the Greenes assert “Deloris Anderson had an implicit duty to advise the Appellants of their ownership[,]” they fail to set forth any basis upon which such a duty to disclose arose. See Regions Bank v. Schmauch, 354 S.C. 648, 673-74, 582 S.E.2d 432, 445-46 (Ct. App. 2003) (stating the duty to disclose may arise from (1) a preexisting fiduciary relationship; (2) where in the particular transaction in question one party expressly reposes a trust and confidence in the other or where from the circumstances of the case, the nature of their dealings, or their position towards each other, such a trust and confidence in the particular case is necessarily implied; and (3) “where the very contract or transaction itself, in its essential nature, is intrinsically fiduciary and necessarily calls for perfect good faith and full disclosure without regard to any particular intention of the parties”).
Not only did the Greenes fail to present any evidence of a representation, they also failed to present evidence of their detrimental reliance or their right to rely. Accordingly, we agree with the probate court that the Greenes’ claim of fraud fails as a matter of law.
We affirm the circuit court’s affirmance of the probate court’s denial of the Greenes’ claims for fraud. We reverse the circuit court’s affirmance of the probate court’s order holding the Greenes may not maintain a claim for money due from
AFFIRMED IN PART AND REVERSED IN PART AND REMANDED.
HEARN, C.J., and HUFF and BEATTY, JJ., concur.