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Judgment Services Corp. v. Sullivan

March 23, 2001

JUDGMENT SERVICES CORPORATION PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
KATHLEEN K. SULLIVAN, CHEMICAL BANK, LASALLE NATIONAL BANK, PER JUDGMENT LIEN #91475646, UNKNOWN OWNERS, NON-RECORD CLAIMANTS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable ALBERT GREEN Judge Presiding.

Defendant Kathleen Sullivan and her husband, John Sullivan, were married on July 23, 1966. On May 19, 1972, Kathleen and John Sullivan purchased a home in Wilmette, Illinois, for $58,000. On October 29, 1996, plaintiff, Judgment Services Corporation (JSC), obtained a sheriff's deed to the property. The sheriff's deed conveyed John's interest in his residence to JSC. On October 20, 1997, JSC filed its complaint for partition asking to apportion the interests of JSC and Kathleen Sullivan. On May 6, 1999, after a bench trial, the trial court held that John Sullivan never held an ownership interest in the property. In so doing, the trial court found in favor of Kathleen Sullivan, who had argued that, even though the deed to the property states that title was conveyed to John and Kathleen Sullivan as joint tenants, at the time she acquired title, a resulting trust was created by her parents, the Kanes. JSC now appeals. We reverse and remand.

In 1972, the Sullivans purchased the subject property from Lawrence and Alvera Hass for $58,000. The deed states that title was conveyed to John and Kathleen Sullivan as joint tenants.

At the time of the purchase, the Sullivans took out a purchase money mortgage in the original principal amount of $22,000. Although no documentary evidence was presented, at trial, both Sullivans testified that Kathleen's father, William Kane, gave them a check for approximately $36,000. Kathleen Sullivan testified that her father wanted her and her children to have a house and he wanted to buy it for them. She also testified that she took title as a joint tenant with her husband, John Sullivan, and she wanted John's name on the deed. She also testified that it was not a condition of her receiving the funds from her father that title be only in her name. The property continued to be the Sullivans' residence from May 19, 1972, through the date of trial.

In 1991, a judgment was entered against John Sullivan in favor of the estate of Marie Barrett. A memorandum of judgment was recorded against the subject property. In addition, liens were also recorded by the Internal Revenue Service for a joint income tax liability of John and Kathleen Sullivan. John Sullivan testified that the amount of the lien was $54,118.27. This amount represented the federal taxes owed on their income for certain years.

On November 24, 1992, the Sullivans took out their current mortgage with Centennial Mortgage. The loan proceeds were used to pay off the Internal Revenue Service lien, as well as a prior mortgage and a judgment lien obligation of John Sullivan to LaSalle Management. No payment was made to satisfy the judgment lien of the estate of Marie Barrett.

On October 23, 1993, another judgment was entered against John Sullivan in favor of Marijo Murphy for $123,181.50. A memorandum of judgment was recorded on October 27, 1993, and created a lien on the interest of John Sullivan in the subject property.

John Sullivan was a practicing attorney and testified that his area of practice included estates and trusts. John Sullivan was disbarred on May 19, 1994, based in part on his conversion of client funds. The Sullivans maintained title to the subject property in both their own names until July 15, 1994, at which time John Sullivan recorded a quitclaim deed conveying his interest in the property to Kathleen Sullivan. Sometime during 1994, John Sullivan filed for bankruptcy protection and received a discharge of all debts, with the exception of perfected liens.

On November 30, 1995, the estate of Marie Barrett caused the sheriff of Cook County to record a certificate of levy for the purpose of conducting a levy sale to satisfy its judgment. The levy sale occurred on October 29, 1996; the certificate of sale was recorded on November 6, 1999. Pursuant to section12-132 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/12-132 (West 1996)), which governs enforcement of judgments and redemption by creditors, Beneficial Systems, Inc., as assignee of Marijo Murphy, on April 11, 1997, redeemed the subject property from the estate of Marie Barrett levy sale; the redemption was confirmed on April 28, 1997. Beneficial Systems, Inc., caused a new certificate of levy to be recorded and noticed a new levy sale. On July 2, 1997, the new levy sale occurred. JSC, which is owned by the same two individuals who own Beneficial Systems, Inc., was the successful purchaser. A sheriff's deed was recorded on September 16, 1997.

On October 20, 1997, JSC filed the complaint for partition asking to apportion the interests in the subject property of JSC and Kathleen Sullivan, which led to the judgment of May 6, 1999, that is the subject of this appeal.

The standard of review we apply when a challenge is made to the trial court's ruling following a bench trial is whether the trial court's judgment is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Bazydlo v. Volant, 164 Ill. 2d 207, 215, 647 N.E.2d 273, 277 (1995). A judgment is against the manifest weight of the evidence only when an opposite conclusion is apparent or when findings appear to be unreasonable, arbitrary, or not based on evidence. Leonardi v. Loyola University, 168 Ill. 2d 83, 106, 658 N.E.2d 450 (1995); Rhodes v. Illinois Central Gulf R.R., 172 Ill. 2d 213, 242 665 N.E.2d 1260, 1274 (1996); Bazydlo, 164 Ill. 2d at 215, 647 N.E.2d at 277.

A resulting trust is created by operation of law and has its roots in the presumed intention of the parties. In re Estate of Wilson 81 Ill. 2d 349, 355, 410 N.E.2d 23, 26 (1980). A resulting trust generally arises where one person purchases property with his own funds and allows title to be taken in the name of another. In re Estate of Wilson, 81 Ill. 2d at 355, 410 N.E.2d at 26. The burden of proof is upon the party seeking to establish a resulting trust and the evidence must be clear, convincing and unmistakable. In re Estate of Wilson, 81 Ill. 2d at 356, 410 N.E.2d at 26.

Since the law surrounding resulting trusts was created to enforce the intent of the parties, certain rebuttable presumptions have evolved based on the relationship of the parties. In re Estate of Wilson, 81 Ill. 2d at 356, 410 N.E.2d at 26. For example, when property is transferred from one family member to another, a presumption arises in favor of a gift which will negate a resulting trust. In re Estate of McCormick, 262 Ill. App. 3d 163, 168-69, 634 N.E.2d 341, 345 (1994). A rebuttable presumption of a gift arises where a husband purchases property and (1) title is taken in the name of his spouse or (2) ownership is taken in joint tenancy with his wife. In re Estate of Wilson, 81 Ill. 2d at 356, 410 N.E.2d at 26. The rationale is that it is deemed to have been intended by the husband that the wife should have the right to half the benefits for the life of each and, if she survives him, she should be the full owner. In re Estate of Wilson, 81 Ill. 2d at 356, 410 N.E.2d at 27. Illinois law also presumes a valid gift when a parent places title in a child, and the party seeking to rebut this presumption bears the burden of producing evidence to the contrary. In re Estate of Defilippis, 289 Ill. App. 3d 695, 701, 683 N.E.2d 453, 458 (1997); In re Marriage of Wesselhoft, 228 Ill. App. 3d 269, 591 N.E.2d 928 (1992); In re Marriage of Rosen, 126 Ill. App. 3d 766, 467 N.E.2d 962 (1984). The presumption of a gift arises, where a son or daughter is the transferee, because the transferee is the natural object of the bounty of the person paying the purchase price. In re Estate of McCormick, 262 Ill. App. 3d at 168, 634 N.E.2d at 345. Again, in all instances, the burden is upon one questioning ...


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