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Tax court rules on inheritance issue

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In Indiana, a person adopted pre-emancipation can't be considered a Class A transferee beneficiary for inheritance tax purposes, the Indiana Tax Court ruled Thursday afternoon in an issue of first impression.

In In Re The estate of Forrest W. Quackenbush, deceased, et al. v. Indiana Department of Revenue, Inheritance Tax Division, No. 49T10-0810-TA-61, Forrest Quackenbush's estate appealed the decision by the Tippecanoe Circuit Court determining its inheritance tax liability. The case raises an issue of first impression in whether, for inheritance tax purposes, a beneficiary should be classified as Class A or Class C transferee when she was adopted pre-emancipation during the lifetime of her biological grandfather.

Quackenbush included his biological granddaughter Pamela Stewart Martin and her two children in his trust. The estate treated the three as Class A transferees when filing its inheritance tax return, which the probate court accepted. But the inheritance tax division filed a petition for rehearing, during which the probate court later determined Martin and her sons should have been classified as Class C transferees, which increased the estate's inheritance tax liability.

The estate argued that nothing in I.C. Section 6-4.1-1-3 or inheritance tax statutes prevents an adoptee from being treated both as a lineal descendant of a natural ancestor and as the natural child of her adoptive parents for inheritance tax purposes. The Tax Court disagreed after examining the interrelationship between the state's descent and devise statutes and its inheritance statutes.

"The overall design of Indiana's probate code with respect to the distribution of property is to treat an adopted child as the natural child of the adoptive parents only," wrote Judge Thomas Fisher.

The General Assembly has unambiguously determined for purposes of inheritance, a child adopted pre-emancipation by unrelated individuals should be placed in a family status equal to that of a natural child of those adoptive parents only, the judge continued. Martin's biological ties to her natural parents were legally severed.

"The Court, having considered Indiana Code § 6-4.1-1-3 in relation to the aforementioned adoption and descent and devise statutes, concludes that the probate court correctly determined that the legislature did not intend to confer Class A transferee status to Pamela, Miles, or Matthias," wrote Judge Fisher.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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