January 17, 2006
Case Law Development: Factors in Transmutation of Inherited Funds into Marital Property
The Florida Court of Appeals decides whether Husband's inherited funds, which he brought into the short-term marriage and used to open a joint money-market account with Wife, thereby became marital property. The court concluded that the funds retained their separate character and reversed the trial court's division of the assets as marital property.
The case doesn't break any new ground, but does provide an excellent example for students of the multi-factor analysis of transmutation. This would be a good case for building a problem for class, as the court nicely marches through the factors in determining whether funds acquired prior to the marriage become marital assets and the prior Florida cases on the subject. The court analyzed
- title (the funds were placed in a joint money market account - for convenience only the court concluded);
- commingling of marital and nonmarital funds (the money market account had only the inherited funds and the fact that wife could transfer funds from the account to the joint checking account did not amount to commingling);
- control of the funds (while wife had authority to transfer funds from the money market, the court held this was not dispositive),
- the length of the marriage (that the marriage was less than two years was clearly a persuasive factor in this case), and
- the parties’ intent concerning the marital or nonmarital status of the funds (because the funds were not commingled, Wife had the burden to prove Husband's intent to make a gift of half of the inherited funds, which the court held she had failed to do).
Grieco v. Grieco, (January 13, 2006)
Opinion on the web at http://www.2dca.org/opinion/january%2013,%202006/2d04-3444.pdf (last visited January 16, 2006 bgf)