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Estate of Hastie

July 22, 2010


(Alameda County Super. Ct. No. HG07358052) Trial judge: Hon. George C. Hernandez, Jr.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Haerle, J.



Timothy Florez appeals from the probate court's determination, following a trial, that two donative transfers of real property by the decedent were invalid. Appellant contends this action by the administrator is barred by the statute of limitations. We disagree and hence affirm.


Grant William Hastie died on July 6, 2006, at the age of 88. Hastie was the owner and resident of real property commonly known as 3712 Anza Way, San Leandro, California (the Anza Property). Hastie was survived by no spouse, no issue, no parents or issue of parents, and no grandparents or issue of grandparents. The only two known heirs are James D. McCarty and David W. McCarty (the McCartys), sons of his predeceased spouse, Mamie L. Hastie, who died on June 3, 1998. For the last 12 years of his life, Hastie was in poor health and was unable to take care of his personal and financial affairs.

For decades there was a close relationship between decedent and defendant Bingham Liverman. Liverman had a real estate background including some probate matters. A fiduciary relationship developed when Hastie granted Liverman power of attorney in October 1999 and existed continuously at all times relevant to this action, up to and including the date of Hastie's death. Liverman paid Hastie's bills by writing checks on his behalf, and assisted Hastie in financial matters. Hastie paid Liverman $4,000 per year for his services.

In 2000, Liverman drafted a Change in Beneficiary form, in his own handwriting, for execution by Hastie on May 6, 2000, naming Liverman and his daughter, Carmen Florez,*fn1 the beneficiaries of Hastie's $150,000 insurance annuity.

In 2001, Liverman arranged for Carmen to become an in-home caregiver for Hastie. She worked in this capacity for Hastie from 2001 until two months before his death in 2006. For her services, she was paid $1,500 per month plus a lump sum payment of $90,000.

In 2001, Liverman suggested that Hastie transfer an interest in the Anza Property to Liverman's granddaughter and Carmen's daughter, Jenny, by executing a joint tenancy grant deed in her favor. Hastie executed the deed on June 13, 2001. It was recorded on March 29, 2002.

In 2006, Liverman suggested that Hastie, while in the hospital a few weeks prior to his death, transfer his remaining interest in the Anza Property to Liverman's grandson and Carmen's son, Timothy (appellant). Liverman drafted a quit claim deed from Hastie in favor of Timothy. Hastie executed the deed in June 2006. Appellant did not pay anything to Hastie in exchange for the interest in the Anza Property.

In 2006, Liverman secured a second power of attorney from Hastie while Hastie was in the hospital just prior to his death.

In 2006, Liverman wrote a letter to the McCartys immediately after Hastie's death, informing them that his relationship with Hastie was not charitable, but rather was that of a caretaker, legal guardian, a business matter, and in expectation of compensation.

The McCartys hired George Weinkauf*fn2 as their attorney to bring any claims they might have as heirs of the estate. The McCartys nominated George's brother, Steven Weinkauf, also an attorney, to act as the administrator of Hastie's estate. On January 4, 2008, the court issued letters of administration to Steven as administrator. Steven has no other relationship to the decedent and he has no other role in this action.

On August 29, 2007, Steven, as administrator, filed a complaint and, on May 9, 2008, a second amended complaint seeking, inter alia, a judicial determination that certain deeds to members of Liverman's family were invalid. The complaint named as defendants Liverman, Carmen, Jenny, and appellant.

The administrator and appellant litigated cross motions for summary adjudication. The administrator's motion sought a determination pursuant to Probate Code section 21350*fn3 that (1) the donative transfer of the Anza Property to Jenny as evidenced by the grant deed dated June 13, 2001 (the 2001 grant deed), was invalid; (2) the donative transfer of the Anza Property to appellant as evidenced by the quit claim deed dated June 6, 2006 (the 2006 grant deed), was invalid; (3) the grant deed from Jenny transferring her interest in the Anza Property to appellant dated February 20, 2007, was invalid because it was based on the invalid 2001 grant ...

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