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Lester v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

December 20, 2016

NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE, LLC., et al., Respondents.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY The Honorable Robert M. Schieber, Judge

          Before Lisa White Hardwick, Presiding Judge, Karen King Mitchell and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges.

          Lisa White Hardwick, Judge.

         David Wayne Lester ("Lester") appeals from the summary judgment in favor of Nationstar Mortgage, LLC ("Nationstar"), on his petition to quiet title. He contends the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment because the court applied the wrong statute and failed to adjudicate the rights of the parties to the deed of trust contract. For reasons explained herein, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural History

         On July 31, 2007, Lester's mother, Bonita J. Lester ("Bonita"), [1] acquired property in Lake Lotawana ("the property"). Bonita executed a deed of trust in favor of Pinnacle Bank as security for a note she executed. At the same time, Bonita executed a beneficiary deed on the property in favor of her sons, Lester and Craig Daniel Lester. The deed of trust and beneficiary deed were recorded.

         In March 2008, Pinnacle Bank executed a deed of release in favor of Bonita and released its deed of trust. Bonita executed a new deed of trust in favor of Bank of America, N.A., on the property. The new deed of trust was recorded.

         Bonita died on July 3, 2012. On August 22, 2012, Lester, Lester's wife, Craig Daniel Lester, and his wife executed a warranty deed that purported to grant all of their interest in the property to Lester. The warranty deed was recorded. In April 2013, Bank of America assigned its deed of trust on the property to Nationstar by an assignment of mortgage/deed of trust, which was recorded.

         In September 2013, fourteen months after Bonita's death, Lester filed a petition to quiet title to the property. In his petition, Lester asserted, among other things, that the underlying debt on the property was extinguished because no estate was opened and Nationstar did not apply to open an estate within one year of Bonita's death. Lester asserted that, by virtue of the beneficiary deed that Bonita had executed and the warranty deed that he, his brother, and their wives had executed, he was now the sole owner of the property, free of any right or interest of Nationstar. Lester requested that the court enter a judgment establishing him as the sole, exclusive owner of the property in fee simple absolute; enjoining Nationstar from conducting or attempting to conduct any foreclosure sale of his property; declaring that his property is not subject to Nationstar's mortgage, lien, or any other interest, charge or debt; and awarding him costs.

         In response, Nationstar filed a motion for summary judgment. In support of its motion, Nationstar argued that it had a valid deed of trust and that the lien on the property created by the deed of trust survived Bonita's death. Nationstar asserted that, pursuant to Section 473.360, [2] the time limit for filing claims against estates does not apply to actions to enforce mortgages or other liens on estate property and that a creditor who has a security interest in decedent's property does not have to file a claim against the estate to enforce the security interest. Additionally, Nationstar argued that the property would not have even been part of Bonita's estate anyway because it was transferred, by operation of law, under the beneficiary deed to Lester and his brother upon Bonita's death. Nationstar contended that, pursuant to the nonprobate transfers law, when Lester and his brother took Bonita's interest in the property via the beneficiary deed, they took her interest subject to any liens and security interests she made during her lifetime.

         The court granted Nationstar's motion for summary judgment. Lester appeals.

         Standard of Review

         Appellate review of a summary judgment is essentially de novo. ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). We review the record in the light most favorable to party against whom the judgment was entered. Wills v. Whitlock, 139 S.W.3d 643, 646 (Mo. App. 2004).

         "Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party has demonstrated, on the basis of facts as to which there is no genuine dispute, a right to judgment as a matter of law." Roberts v. BJC Health Sys., 391 S.W.3d 433, 437 (Mo. banc 2013). The defendant establishes the ...

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