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Court rules on inclusion of inherited property in marital estates

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals ruled today on a case of distributing inherited property during dissolution of a marriage, stating property inherited by either party should be included in the marital estate.

In Sharren M. (Garrity) Grathwohl v. Steven T. Garrity, http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/07300703mpb.pdf the Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the trial court for the purpose of requiring the trial court to include both parties' inherited property in their marital estate, to value the properties, and to issue a new order to redistribute the marital assets accordingly.

In 2003, Sharren Grathwohl and Steven Garrity, who were married at the time, both inherited properties from their mothers. Grathwohl owned her property in Michigan as a joint tenant "with full rights as a survivor," with her son from a previous marriage owning the other half. In 2006, Garrity filed for divorce and testified that both properties should be included in the marital estate, but set off separately to each party. Grathwohl argued her inherited property should not be included because of the joint tenancy with her son. The trial court excluded both properties when dissolving the marriage and dividing the marital estate. The court calculated the net worth of the marital estate at $277,537 and awarded approximately 49 percent to Grathwohl and 51 percent to Garrity.

Grathwohl appealed the ruling, stating the trial court erred in not including Garrity's property in the marital estate and that Garrity had frivolously dissipated marital property prior to the divorce.

The Court of Appeals, citing Indiana Code Section 31-15-7-4(a), states it has been repeatedly held that the statute requires inclusion of all property owned in the marital estate, including inherited properties. It found the trial court erred in excluding the properties of Garrity and Grathwohl. Even though Grathwohl's property includes joint tenancy, the court stated she had the right to enjoy the use of the Michigan property, sell it, or mortgage her interest in it, thus it is sufficient enough to render the property in the marital pot as well.

The trial court didn't include in its decision why it excluded the inherited property in the marital estate, beyond stating it was inherited property. The Court of Appeals is unable to determine the actual total value of the marital estate or the percentages of the estate Garrity and Grathwohl received because the trial court did not assign values to the parties' interests in the inherited properties, despite evidence being presented to support that point.

The Court of Appeals remands to the trial court to include the parties' inherited property interests in the marital estate, to valuate those interests, and to recalculate the division of marital assets accordingly. A footnote to this point states the court cannot address Grathwohl's claim she was entitled to a larger percentage of the estate because it doesn't know what percentage of the marital estate she actually received.

Grathwohl also claimed in her appeal that Garrity frivolously dissipated marital assets prior to the divorce when he purchased a motorcycle, bought Conseco stock that eventually became worthless, and spent money remodeling and repairing the property he inherited from his mother. The court found that Garrity did not dissipate marital assets frivolously because Grathwohl had received half of the profits from the sale of the motorcycle; Garrity couldn't have known that the Conseco stock would become worthless; and remodeling of a home that is considered a marital asset is not wasteful.
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  1. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  2. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  3. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  4. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

  5. Dear Fan, let me help you correct the title to your post. "ACLU is [Left] most of the time" will render it accurate. Just google it if you doubt that I am, err, "right" about this: "By the mid-1930s, Roger Nash Baldwin had carved out a well-established reputation as America’s foremost civil libertarian. He was, at the same time, one of the nation’s leading figures in left-of-center circles. Founder and long time director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Baldwin was a firm Popular Fronter who believed that forces on the left side of the political spectrum should unite to ward off the threat posed by right-wing aggressors and to advance progressive causes. Baldwin’s expansive civil liberties perspective, coupled with his determined belief in the need for sweeping socioeconomic change, sometimes resulted in contradictory and controversial pronouncements. That made him something of a lightning rod for those who painted the ACLU with a red brush." http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/roger-baldwin-2/ "[George Soros underwrites the ACLU' which It supports open borders, has rushed to the defense of suspected terrorists and their abettors, and appointed former New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its Advisory Board." http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1237 "The creation of non-profit law firms ushered in an era of progressive public interest firms modeled after already established like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") and the American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") to advance progressive causes from the environmental protection to consumer advocacy." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_lawyering

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