Family Law Case Review
Case: Fazia Deen-Bacchus v. Harold M. Bacchus, Jr.
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll
HELD: When a Decree assigns a value to an investment account for purposes of calculating the marital estate, and then awards one party that account, absent express language providing otherwise, the recipient party is intended to receive 100% of the subject account, regardless of its value at the time of transfer, not the amount that the trial court assigned to the account when calculating the marital estate.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
In January, 2011, the trial court issued its property division order incident to the dissolution of the parties’ marriage. Among other property, the order gave Wife, “as her property,” three investment accounts. Elsewhere in the order, the trial court assigned values to each of the three investment accounts for purposes of calculating the overall marital estate.
Apparently, Husband was dilatory in transferring these accounts to Wife and, by the time Wife pressed the issue, the aggregate value of the three accounts had increased materially. A dispute then arose between the parties as to whether Wife was to receive the entire of each of the three accounts — including appreciation — or whether Husband owed Wife only the amount in the original values used by the trial court to value each account for divorce purposes, leaving Husband entitled to keep the rest.
After a hearing, the trial court sided with Husband, but ordered him to pay Wife a nominal amount of interest in addition. Wife appealed.
The Court of Appeals, agreeing with Wife, reversed the trial court. “[T]he order plainly and unmistakably identifies the investment accounts, not a certain value of the accounts, as Wife’s property.” Thus, Wife was entitled to receive the entirety of each of the subject accounts, including any appreciation subsequent to the property division order.
[While not addressed by the opinion, presumably the risk of loss also falls on the party awarded the account.]
To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Fazia Deen-Bacchus v. Harold M. Bacchus, Jr.
James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.