Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Saccullo v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 11, 2019

MARK A. SACCULLO, as Successor Trustee of the Anthony L. Saccullo Irrevocable Trust for the benefit of Mark A. Saccullo, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant-Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant-Counter Claimant-Appellee. DOROTHY A. SACCULLO, Counter Defendant-Appellant, TAX COLLECTOR OF CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FLORIDA, Counter Defendant,

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, D.C. Docket No. 8:16-cv-00410-CEH-TBM

          Before MARCUS, NEWSOM, and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

          NEWSOM, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         One relic of the English legal tradition holds that, as a general matter, the sovereign (here, the United States) is not bound by statutes of limitation or subject to laches. The question before us is how this vestigial rule-nullum tempus occurrit regi, or, as the parties here call it, the "Summerlin" principle, after United States v. Summerlin, 310 U.S. 414, 416 (1940)-interacts with a Florida law designed to correct technical flaws in property-conveyance deeds.

         At issue in this case is whether Fla. Stat. § 95.231, which operates to cure certain defective deeds after the passage of five years, applies to a parcel on which the United States has asserted a federal estate-tax lien. Here's the (very) short story: In 1998, the appellant's aging father executed a deed conveying property to a trust created for the appellant's benefit-but unfortunately, failed to procure a second witness, as Florida law requires. Following the appellant's father's death in 2005, the United States assessed an estate tax on the property-which it said remained in the estate despite the attempted conveyance-and, when the tax remained unpaid, imposed a series of liens. The question here is whether Summerlin forestalls enforcement of § 95.231's five-year-cure provision to defeat the United States' estate-tax claim. We hold that it does not. Section 95.231 cured the deed in question, thereby effectuating the intended conveyance and transferring the property out of the father's estate, well before the United States' claim could have vested. The Florida statute, therefore, didn't cut off a preexisting claim in a way that might offend Summerlin; rather, it simply-and validly-prevented that claim from coming into being in the first place.

         I

         A

         Mark Saccullo has lived on the property at issue here, the site of his childhood home, since 1991. In 1998, Mark's father Anthony, who owned what we'll call "the Property" in fee simple, executed a deed that purported to convey it to the "Anthony L. Saccullo Irrevocable Trust for the benefit of Mark A. Saccullo." For the most part, the deed conformed to the necessary formalities, and it was properly notarized and recorded in December 1998. There was just one glitch: the deed bore the signature of only one witness, not the two required by Fla. Stat. § 689.01. That failure effectively negated the conveyance-at least for the time being, but more on that later-and despite the deed, Anthony retained title to the Property.

         When Anthony died in December 2005, Mark became the trustee of his father's irrevocable trust. Mark filed an estate-tax return and-mistakenly it now seems-included the Property among the estate's assets. In 2007, the IRS assessed an estate tax of almost $1.4 million, apparently under the impression that the estate still owned the Property. Shortly thereafter, Mark, acting in his capacity as trustee, conveyed the Property via quitclaim deed to himself and his wife.

         Because the estate-tax liability remained delinquent, the government filed two tax-lien notices with Charlotte County, Florida-one against the estate in 2012, and another against the Property in 2015. The IRS later administratively seized the Property and unsuccessfully sought to sell it, as the estate-tax liability increased to $1.6 million.

         B

         After the administrative seizure, Mark filed a quiet-title action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, contending that the liens didn't cover the Property because it was (in fact) not part of his father's estate when he died.[1] The government counterclaimed, seeking to foreclose on its liens.

         The government subsequently moved for summary judgment on its counterclaim arguing, as relevant here, that the Property remained in Anthony's estate, and was thus "subject to [the government's] tax lien" because, as explained above, "the 1998 deed was not properly witnessed."[2] In opposing the government's motion, Mark relied on Fla. Stat. § 95.231, which, in relevant part, states that

[f]ive years after the recording of an instrument required to be executed in accordance with s. 689.01 . . . from which it appears that the person owning the property attempted to convey [the property], . . . the instrument . . . shall be held to have its purported effect to convey [the property] . . . as if there had been no lack of . . . witness or ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.