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Susan Harper died, and her heirs gave Maude Harper a quitclaim deed to the same property. The deed mentioned the earlier lost deed. This quitclaim deed was not for life, it was to Maude Harper in fee simple absolute; she owned it. This deed was first recorded in 1928.
Maude Harper put the property up as collateral on a loan, which she could not repay, and the property was conveyed by Sheriff's deed to Ella Thornton, who then conveyed it to the defendants. All these deeds were recorded. There is a Code in Georgia that says that all "bona fide purchasers for value" who purchase from an heir of a deceased person are protected against unrecorded conveyances to the same extent as if the property had been purchased from the deceased themselves.
The trial court granted a directed verdict to Paradise. Harper claims title as remainder men under a deed to a life tenant with the remainder interest to the named children of the life tenant. This court reverses with a direction that judgment be entered in favor of Harper.
Does a reference to an earlier deed within a deed in the chain of title provide inquiry notice of that deed?
Yes, it does provide inquiry notice. Trial court's judgment reversed.
A deed which specifically refers to an earlier unrecorded deed puts a subsequent purchaser on inquiry notice of the existence of the earlier deed: thus, the purchaser claiming under the later deed is not entitled to priority, if reasonable inquiry is not made, though the later deed was recorded first.
This is a race/notice jurisdiction. In a normal situation, the deed that was recorded first, the 1928 deed, would have had priority. But this deed mentioned the earlier deed. This mention of the earlier deed put that deed within the chain of title. Therefore, all the subsequent purchasers, including the defendants, had constructive notice that the property would go to the heirs of Maude Harper upon her death. Maude should not have conveyed the property to Thornton, because it was a life estate only, and was not hers to convey.