Luttrell v. Luttrell, No. W2012-02279-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 28, 2014).

Funding Recommendation and Use of Phrase “Ours” Had been Inadequate to Transmute Spouse’s Belief Fund

William and Beverly Luttrell had been married in 1987 in Mississippi.  The spouse got here from a well-to-do household, since her grandfather had began Bryan Meals, which later turned a part of the Sara Lee Company.  Previous to the wedding, she was the beneficiary of a belief with in preliminary worth of just about $600,000.  Through the years, her household added items of money and inventory with a further worth of over half 1,000,000 {dollars}.  She stored these property in accounts titled in her identify alone.

Shortly after getting married, they moved to Illinois, the place the husband earned his MBA from Northwestern College.  Whereas he was in graduate college, the spouse labored in a preschool till she turned pregnant in 1989.  In 1990, the husband accepted a job with Worldwide Paper in Memphis, Tennessee.  That they had three extra youngsters, and due to the spouse’s wealth, she was capable of be a stay-at-home mother.

They led a well-to-do way of life, and purchased a house in Germantown for $515,000 in 1996.  The spouse used $290,000 of her funds for the down fee, whereas the husband’s revenue paid most of their residing bills.

After two years at Worldwide Paper, the husband began a job as product supervisor for Smith & Nephew, however left resulting from a heavy journey schedule.  In 2003, the husband determined to open an vintage retailer in Germantown.  The spouse withdrew $94,000 to buy the property and begin the enterprise.

The enterprise didn’t do effectively, however regardless of the spouse’s urgings to hunt extra conventional employment, the husband endured with making an attempt to make a go of the vintage store.  Finally, he started in search of different employment and listed the vintage store property on the market.  It was nonetheless in the marketplace on the time of trial.

In 2006, the spouse realized that the husband was having an affair.  She filed for divorce, however then tried reconciliation.  However in 2011, the husband filed for divorce, and the spouse counterclaimed.  The husband stayed within the marital dwelling, and the spouse used $392,000 to purchase one other home in Germantown.  The marital dwelling was finally listed on the market, however had not but bought.

The events resolved many of the parenting points, however an answer to the property points eluded them.  Trial was held in Shelby County in 2012 earlier than Decide Robert L. Childers.  The court docket granted the spouse an absolute divorce on the grounds of inappropriate marital conduct.  After the court docket divided the property, there was an attraction to the Tennessee Courtroom of Appeals through which each events made arguments.

Essentially the most contentious challenge was the standing of the spouse’s belief accounts, which had a worth of over $1.7 million.  The spouse argued that this was her separate property, however the husband asserted that the asset had been transmuted into marital property.  He argued that the proof confirmed that the events had handled the belief as marital property by the years.  He first famous that he had actively participated within the administration of the investments, had attended conferences with bankers, and had communicated straight with them.  He additionally identified occasions when the spouse had referred to the funds as “ours” and used the phrase “we” in relation to them.

However the court docket examined the proof and concluded that the spouse by no means supposed to relinquish management over the funding accounts.  For instance, the belief officer testified that he had communicated with the husband, however that he all the time checked with the spouse for approval earlier than taking any motion.  As well as, the belief officer testified that he by no means acted on the husband’s funding recommendation.  The accounts had been all the time titled in her identify alone.

The court docket additionally famous that the husband had borrowed cash from his mom to buy stock for the vintage retailer, one thing that might have been pointless if he had entry to the finds.

The husband subsequent argued that the funding accounts had been commingled with marital property.  However the court docket concluded that there was no proof to assist this declare.

Lastly, the husband argued that the appreciation of the belief was marital property.  However the court docket famous that the spouse’s contributions to the marital property through the years had vastly exceeded that of her husband.  Even when the husband’s actions triggered among the appreciation, this was greater than offset by the advantages he had acquired, such because the spouse utilizing belief property to repay his pupil loans.

The Courtroom of Appeals thought-about numerous different points, however discovered that the trial court docket must be affirmed on these points as effectively.  Due to this fact, the Courtroom of Appeals affirmed.

This submit is a part of a sequence, Appreciation of Separate Property: The Forensic Accountant’s Full Employment Act.


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