APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon.
ALBERT S. O'SULLIVAN, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE HERSHEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Plaintiff, Amy Lybeck Anderson, brought her action in the circuit court of Winnebago County seeking to impress a constructive trust upon certain residential real estate in Rockford, the title to which was in the name of Gladys Lybeck, widow of plaintiff's brother. Plaintiff contended that her brother, Nestor Lybeck, in his lifetime held title to the real estate, as trustee. Gladys Lybeck obtained title as surviving joint tenant upon Nestor's death. A hearing was held, whereupon the chancellor dismissed plaintiff's complaint, holding her suit barred by the five-year Statute of Limitations. A freehold being involved, plaintiff appeals directly to this court.
Charles Lybeck died September 17, 1946, and the property was not inventoried in his intestate estate. It was discovered that the title to the real estate was then in Nestor C.R. Lybeck, a son of Charles Lybeck, and that in 1947 Nestor placed the title in joint tenancy with his wife, Gladys. In July, 1953, Nestor C.R. Lybeck died.
On May 25, 1954, plaintiff, a daughter of Charles Lybeck, filed her complaint praying that Gladys C. Lybeck be ordered to reconvey the property to plaintiff and the other heirs of Charles Lybeck, or that she be declared to hold title in trust for such purpose and for such persons. The other surviving heirs of Charles Lybeck were joined as defendants.
Gladys C. Lybeck filed her answer admitting the marriage and deaths of Charles C. Lybeck and his wife, the death of Nestor C.R. Lybeck, that plaintiff had demanded conveyance of her interest, and that the plaintiff and the other defendants were the sole heirs of Charles Lybeck. She denied all of the other allegations of the complaint and raised the following affirmative defenses: (1) that plaintiff's claim was barred by the Statute of Limitations (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, chap. 83, par 16,), (2) that plaintiff's claim is barred by laches, and (3) that plaintiff seeks to impress a trust upon real estate by parole evidence, contrary to the Statute of Frauds of the State of Illinois.
The real estate here involved is a two-family residence in the city of Rockford purchased in 1910 by Charles Lybeck. In 1912 he conveyed the property to David Nelson, who together with his wife reconveyed it to Charles Lybeck in about two months. In 1915 the property was conveyed to his son, Alvin Lybeck, who immediately reconveyed it to his father.
Edith Rosell, a daughter of Charles, testified that she lived with her father in the property after the death of her mother, except for a two-year period when they lived in a new home built by her father. The new house was lost during the depression and they returned to this property. In 1934 her father told her he wanted to protect this property from any liens, so he conveyed the title to her. She reconveyed to him in 1935, and in 1936 he conveyed it again to her as he had been advised it wasn't safe to keep the property in his name. In 1942 her husband was about to sign up for the draft, so her father said he would fix up the title and had her and her husband convey to Nestor Lybeck, and that Nestor paid nothing to her or her father. She related that her father collected the rents and paid the taxes during all of his lifetime, including the time the title was in the name of other persons. In 1947 she said Nestor told her, in a conversation relating to the property, that her interest would be taken care of and that she would get her share. She said she and her husband received their rent for taking care of her father.
Bernhard Rosell confirmed his wife, Edith, in her statement of the conveyance to Nestor, and that Charles Lybeck continued to collect the rentals and pay for repairs and improvements until his death.
Defendant Gladys Lybeck testified as an adverse witness that before 1947, during the lifetime of Charles Lybeck, her husband, Nestor, informed her that Charles had deeded the property to him, and that to her knowledge her husband paid no consideration to Charles or to Edith Rosell. She stated that Charles Lybeck lived in the residence until his death, that Nestor did not collect the rents until after the death of Charles, and that to her knowledge her husband paid no taxes on the property prior to the death of Charles. After Charles' death, Nestor collected the rents and made repairs to the property. She said that she and her husband mortgaged other property to pay for improvements on this property, and that rentals from the property were more than sufficient to pay the loan. She has collected the rentals since her husband's death.
Plaintiff testified she did not know that title to the property was in Nestor's name until after her father's death which occurred in 1946. In 1950 she had a conversation with Nestor about the property at his place of employment. She said Nestor then told her not to worry about her share of the property, as she would have it in a few years.
No evidence was offered by Gladys Lybeck in defense to the complaint. The court then found that the five-year Statute of Limitations applied to the action, and dismissed the cause.
The plaintiff contends on this appeal, and Gladys Lybeck denies, that a constructive trust was impressed upon the property with Nestor Lybeck as trustee and the heirs of Charles Lybeck as beneficiaries, and that neither laches nor the Statute of Limitations bars this cause under the facts of this case.
A constructive trust is one raised by operation of law as distinguished from a trust created by express agreement between the settlor and the trustee. It is imposed by a court of equity to prevent a person from holding for his own benefit an advantage which he has gained by reason of a fiduciary relationship or by fraud. Such a trust arises only when that fraud is proved or when advantage is taken of a fiduciary relationship by the dominant party. (Compton v. Compton, 414 Ill. 149.) A fiduciary or confidential relationship, as used in this connotation is a very broad one, and exists in all cases where one reposes trust and confidence in another who thus gains a resulting influence and superiority which has been abused. The origin of the confidence and the source of influence are immaterial. It exists when one person trusts in and relies on another. The relationship may be moral, social, domestic or merely personal. (Stahl v. Stahl, 214 Ill. 131; ...