Mommy, Grandma, and Grandpa had me arrested for calling my girls on the phone. -Updated 4/13/2010

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She took my parents' farm

Judge Humphrey ordered that I have to pay her $165,470.80 and give her almost everything my Ex wanted; even if it belonged to other people.

When there is a bitter divorce, people say someone has to be the better person and let it go.  What happens if the other person doesn’t stop attacking?  Obviously the property issues pale in comparison to the fact that the children were ripped of their father, but it only serves to demonstrate how some people will not quit or compromise until they get everything they want. 

Warning: If someone gives you a future interest in an irrevocable trust, it is subject to division in an Indiana Divorce Court

You think I’m crazy, just Google it.  Indiana is the only state that has divorce laws like this.  We lived in a farmhouse that my parents bought in 1989.  My father was diagnosed with cancer on April 10, 1998 and died on May 19, 1998.  A few weeks before his death, my mom sold her interest in the farm property to dad for about 5 bucks so the property could be put in a trust.  The trust was set up so mom could use the assets (subject to the trustee’s approval) for medical purposes, to aid mom if her standard of living dropped, education for dad’s legal issue, etc… while protecting the assets in the trust from taxes and probate upon the death of mom.  The trust was not a good deal for mom because she lost the ability to do anything she wanted with the investment she contributed to throughout her marriage but she agreed to her dying husband’s wishes.  My Ex had an appraiser, Nelson Elliot, do a “drive by” appraisal of all the farm tracts and set the value of the farm at $1.5 million.  Then my Ex had a CPA put the estimate in a Life Estate Remainder calculator to determine how much of the farm I may inherit when my mom dies.  My Ex presented to the Court that I would receive $264,530.00 from the trust upon the death of my mother.  Guess how much of that was included in the Net Marital Assets; $264,530.00.  My Ex submitted documents that stated that she was the borrower and owner of the property despite her not having any ownership interest in the property.  Judge Humphrey allowed her to submit the information despite my objections.  Judge James D. Humphrey was “kind” enough to realize that a 50%/50% wasn’t fair for me considering her net worth was calculated at $6,126.96 and my net worth was calculated at $279,223.61 so he ruled that I got 55% of the marital assets and my Ex only got a “measly” 45% amounting to $122,280.80.  Do you know when I have to pay that?  On October 13, 2009, she filed a contempt charge against me because I hadn’t paid her.

“You should have had an attorney”

I get that a lot.  My first attorney, Amy Streator, said she didn’t see any way that Judge Carl H. Taul would award my Ex any part of the farm if mom died before the divorce was over.  My second attorney, Thomas Blondell, looked at the trust agreement and told me that my Ex wasn’t entitled to it.  Great advice.  Too bad they were wrong.  For those who are having a hard time understanding this, you are not alone.  It is hard for people to grasp that my Ex could lay a claim to money that my mother is entitled to.  My brother and I have no control of the assets until mom dies.  If I die before mom, my two daughters inherit what would have been my half directly from the trust.  My Ex testified that she was aware that our daughters would inherit if I predeceased my mother yet she still went after the money knowing that she could be taking it from the children.  Mom could use all of the assets in the trust to pay for long term medical care and I would receive nothing when she dies.  Too bad I still have to pay my ex $122,280.80.

Living in the Land of Make Believe (and Indiana Law)

This situation is a result of a bad system rolling along with no checks and balances.  Some brilliant state legislator probably drafted a law to protect the rights of a small few because someone got screwed in a divorce.  In Indiana, a Judge has the discretion to include any personal asset a person has ever owned in the marital pot during a divorce.  Then what happens is you have some less than qualified and/or mean spirited trial judges that make nonsensical rulings which get appealed.  The appellate courts have to interpret law and do not have the ability to just say “The Judge is a moron” or “this doesn’t make any sense” and send it to a competent Judge.  The appellate courts have to  rely on appellate attorneys to make arguments and direct the appellate courts to case law so the appellate courts have the ability to rule on the case.  The appellate court is often put in a position to rule on a “dumb” trial court ruling.  When the appellate court offers a new opinion or ruling that clarifies law or previous rulings, it becomes case law.  Problems arise when appellate courts are forced to interpret law because of a poor ruling by the trial court.  Slowly the law can mutate into something that doesn’t make any sense, as in my case.

If the following doesn’t make sense to you, it’s ok because it shouldn’t.  Before my father died, he put the land he and my mother purchased into a trust that became irrevocable when he died.  My mom is the beneficiary of the trust and has some access to assets of the trust at the discretion of the trustee.  My brother and I are not named as beneficiaries.  The only language in the trust that gives my brother and me any stake in the assets of the trust is that upon the death of the beneficiary, dad’s legal issue would inherit any remaining assets of the trust.  If you are following along, I am not entitled to anything unless I survive my mother.  Then I am only entitled to the remainder of the trust if there is a remainder.  So what is my interest?  $264,530.00.  Why; because she said so.  If I were to get married and divorce in the state of Indiana (don’t worry it will never happen), my future interest in my next divorce could be whatever my next wife says it should be.

Estate advisors sometimes discourage people from disclosing trust information to beneficiaries, legal issue, etc… because of the potential conflict it may cause in their lifetime.  Judge James D Humphrey determined that I had a future interest in farmland that was vested (legal term for placed) upon me by my dad when he signed the trust.  I did not have representation when the trust was drafted nor did I have any the ability to refuse the terms of the trust.  A beneficiary has the ability to refuse the terms of the trust; a legal issue with a future vested interest does not.  Because someone placed a vested future interest on me, I have incurred well over a hundred thousand dollars of debt without having the resources to pay it.  I may never have the resources to pay it.  What country do we live in where a third party can draft a legal document that places financial liability on a person without their knowledge? 

What should I have done?  For the people who said I need a lawyer, the advise isn’t that appealing.  I was told that it was my responsibility to make an argument for the value of the trust.  On the surface, it is ridiculous to think that I should have to argue the value of the portion of the trust I have to pay my Ex when I don’t own the assets of the trust or have any access and/or control of the assets.  Putting that aside, how can someone estimate a future interest in farmland when someone has the ability to arbitrarily use the assets of the trust without my knowledge?  My grandmother lived to be almost 88 years old which is ten years past the average life span for women.  If my mom would live to be as old as her mother, there would be twenty-five years that she would have the ability to use the assets of the trust.  As for trying to determine the value of farmland, it is only worth as much as the day you sell it.  If my Ex and I acquired or inherited property and it was included in the marital estate, it could be appraised and we would have the ability to sell the property to settle any debt or property division.  The thought process of the Indiana Family Court System is that it places responsibility on the person who has no control or ownership of property, to figure out what they might inherit in twenty-five years after factoring in real estate fluctuations and the fact that another party has the ability to use all of the assets.  I got a better argument.  One law says that my Ex is entitled to half of my future interest.  Another law says I cannot refuse a future interest because it is not tangible.  The US Constitution protects me from being forced into a contract without my knowledge.  Either Indiana divorce laws are unconstitutional or all trusts in Indiana are Unconstitutional.  Either scenario throws a tremendous cog into the system.