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Home / Opinion Digests / Domestic Relations / Domestic Relations – Equitable Distribution – Valuation – Real Property – Tax Value – Classification – Acquisition Date

Domestic Relations – Equitable Distribution – Valuation – Real Property – Tax Value – Classification – Acquisition Date

Medlin v. Medlin (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-178-17, 19 pp.) (Appealed from Scotland County District Court (Amanda Wilson, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: Tax records are generally not competent to prove the market value of real property; nonetheless, the trial court could rely on the tax value of a 10-acre tract where the defendant-husband failed to object to the introduction of the tract’s tax value. Additionally, the tax value was relevant since the trial court was tasked with valuing the property more than six years after the parties’ separation; moreover, the plaintiff-wife sold the tract for $5,000 less than its tax value. The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the tract’s tax value on the date of separation was an appropriate estimate of its value at the time.

We affirm the trial court’s equitable distribution order.

Although defendant put on a witness who testified that the 10-acre tract was worth far more than the plaintiff-wife sold it for if the land were subdivided, since the land was not subdivided, it was proper for the trial court to disregard this testimony as purely speculative. The trial court was required to make findings only on the evidence that supported its ultimate valuation of the tract.

It is true that a landowner is inherently qualified to testify as to the value of his property. Defendant testified that the 10-acre tract was worth more than its tax value of $22,000 and that the tract “would have been sold at my price.

However, the trial court sustained plaintiff’s objection to speculation as to what the intended future lots would have been sold for, and defendant did not make an offer of proof as to what his testimony on this issue would have been. Consequently, we cannot review the propriety of the trial court’s exclusion.

Wood Collection

Defendant, a carpenter specializing in home restoration, had a collection of wood valued at around $75,000. Defendant contended that he already owned the entire collection when the parties married in 1992, but plaintiff testified that 75 to 80 percent of the wood was acquired – either through purchase or reclamation from demolished buildings – during the parties’ 17-year marriage.

The trial court’s finding that 80 percent of the wood collection was marital property was supported by plaintiff’s testimony. The trial court acted well within its discretion when it found plaintiff’s testimony to be more credible than defendant’s, particularly given its finding that defendant entered into evidence a check on which the date had been altered.

Lot 48A

Defendant contracted for the purchase of lot 48A before the parties’ marriage. However, lot 48A was purchased and the deed was executed during the marriage. The parties held title to lot 48A as tenants by the entireties.

Defendant argues the trial court erred in classifying lot 48A as marital property. We disagree.

Defendant argues that the trial court erred because it failed to find that he did not rebut the marital property presumption pursuant to G.S. § 50-20(b)(1). However, the trial court was not required to find that the marital property presumption had not been rebutted in order to classify lot 48A as marital property. Rather, § 50-20(b)(1) simply provides that if the trial court does find that the marital property presumption is rebutted, that finding must be supported “by the greater weight of the evidence.”

The trial court need only make specific findings of the ultimate facts established by the evidence essential to support the conclusions of law reached. Here, the trial court concluded that lot 48A was marital property. Because the findings provide that lot 48A was purchased after the marriage and titled as tenants by the entireties, the findings provide the sufficient facts necessary to support the trial court’s classification of lot 48A as marital property.

Affirmed.

 


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