The 80-acre Putnam County ranch where Atlanta attorney Claud “Tex” McIver married the woman he would eventually kill and that was at the heart of the couple’s dispute over who would inherit it goes on the auction block next month.
Ahlers & Ogletree—the Atlanta auction house that handled McIver’s sale of his wife’s designer clothing, antiques, furniture and collectibles just weeks after he fatally shot her on Sept. 25, 2016—has been hired by the estate to conduct an auction and tag sale that will take place Aug. 3-5.Georgia state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, the court-appointed executrix of the estate of McIver’s slain wife, Diane McIver, confirmed that she and McIver’s civil lawyers have agreed to sell the property at auction and liquidate the farm’s furnishings, equipment and personal effects.
“I can tell you we have a legitimate dispute about whether or not Tex still maintains any interest in the ranch property,” she said.But Oliver said she and lawyers for McIver, who was convicted of his wife’s murder in April, have not yet resolved an ongoing dispute over the distribution of the sale proceeds.
“The fact that we are selling things does not dictate we have reached any agreement as to the division or ownership,” she said.Oliver said Diane McIver’s estate and McIver’s attorneys “have a mutual interest in all of the properties—to maximize the sale benefits and to cut costs. The upkeep of the ranch … has been quite high.”
Oliver added. “I am taking the position that Diane’s estate owns all of the ranch.”
After a six-week trial, McIver, 75, was found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He also was convicted of influencing witness Dani Jo Carter, who was driving the McIvers home from a weekend at the ranch when McIver—who was sitting in the back seat—fired a shot through the front passenger seat where his wife was sitting. At the time, the trio were driving through downtown Atlanta at night, and McIver had in hand a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver because he said he feared that the Ford King Ranch Expedition was vulnerable to potential carjackers, protesters or the homeless.
On May 23, Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney sentenced McIver to a parolable life sentence, but he must serve 30 years before he is eligible for release. McIver’s attorneys have filed a motion for a new trial and have said they also intend to appeal McIver’s conviction.
Decatur attorney Bill Rothschild, who is representing Tex McIver, said that all proceeds from the August auction and tag sale likely will be held in some form or escrow or other earning account, pending a final resolution of legal issues associated with Georgia’s slayer statute.
If a husband is determined to have intentionally killed, conspired to kill or hired someone else to kill his wife, Georgia’s slayer statute mandates that he forfeit all rights to any interest in the victim’s estate and to serve as a personal representative or trustee of the victim’s estate or any trust she may have established.
The statute also mandates that, if a husband slays his wife, the assets of the victim’s estate will be administered as if the culprit died first.
That section of the law could have implications for how the sale proceeds of the McIver ranch ultimately are distributed. When Diane McIver died, the couple shared a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship in the ranch, meaning that Tex McIver immediately became sole owner upon his wife’s death—regardless of the terms of her 2006 will, which also left her share of the ranch to her husband.
Skip Sugarman of Atlanta’s Sugarman Law, who specializes in estate and trusts litigation and followed the trial, suggested that the slayer statute would strip Tex McIver of his ownership of the ranch, which he claimed as soon as his wife died. Instead, the terms of Diane McIver’s will and the joint tenant rights of survivorship under which the couple held title to the property would be executed as if Tex McIver died first, Sugarman said.
Rothschild said he disagrees that Tex McIver neither owns or has a legal claim to at least his half of the ranch as a result of his murder conviction. “I think that is a misreading of the statute,” he said.
But he acknowledged that Tex McIver owes his wife’s estate $350,000—a loan McIver collateralized with his half of the ranch. Rothschild said he intends that the loan will be repaid from his client’s share of the sale proceeds—provided that McIver ultimately recoups any money from the auction.
McIver never made more than interest payments on the loan, which his wife had refinanced after he defaulted.
The loan was due in full last December. Oliver testified during the trial that McIver had defaulted for the second time last December.
McIver owned the ranch when the couple married in 2005. Diane McIver gave him $750,000 to invest in the ranch shortly before the wedding. Afterward, he gave her a half-interest in the property, according to court testimony.
Prosecutors claimed before and during the trial that Diane McIver and her husband had been embroiled in a long-running dispute over changes she wanted to make to her 2006 will, which she executed shortly after the couple married in 2005. At the top of the list was the ranch. Diane McIver wanted to leave it to the couple’s godson, but Tex McIver’s own will would have left the ranch to his son from his first marriage upon the death of Diane McIver.
By then, stripped of his equity partnership at Atlanta’s Fisher & Phillips, Tex McIver’s financial situation was dire when he shot and killed his wife, according to a forensic accounting expert who testified at McIver’s murder trial. The couple kept their finances separate, according to witnesses who testified at the trial. Tex McIver was responsible for ranch expenses, which averaged about $20,000-$25,000 a month and which he was borrowing from his wife, the forensic accountant testified.