Have you heard the term Antenuptial Agreement before? Does someone you know have one? You might have thought about getting one or wondered what in the world it is.
An antenuptial agreement is, according to Oklahoma case law at 352 P. 3d 723, is when spouses entered into before their marriage an agreement to determine how their property would be owned, possessed and pass in the event of divorce or death. In this case they intended to create a joint tenancy with right of survivorship relationship after the marriage in two checking accounts into which income from husband’s separate trust was deposited. The agreement gave the wife the right to use and the ownership of the bank accounts. The court said that antenuptial agreements allowed spouses flexibility to own separate property or property of the marriage (called joint industry property) in joint tenancy if that was what they agreed to do. That the joint tenancy accounts were opened by the spouses to accept income from trust, and were intended to be joint tenancy funds. The wife was determined entitled to these fund out of which her living expenses were to be paid before and after her husband became ill and was placed in a nursing home.
The court went into an extensive fact review. Daniel B. Leggett and Appellee were married June 2, 2002. Prior to their marriage, they executed an Antenuptial Agreement on February 12, 2002. Daniel B. Leggett had created an Inter Vivos Revocable Trust (Trust), dated April 12, 2002, naming himself as Trustee and Charles B. Leggett as Successor Trustee. The Trust was amended in 2004 to reflect the marriage, distributing property to Appellee and others, and providing for Appellee to receive “net income” determined by the terms of the Trust for life. Daniel entered a nursing home in April, 2007, where he remained until his death in April, 2009. During the marriage the Trust income was deposited into and all living expenses were paid out of a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship account. During the marriage and prior to Daniel moving to a nursing home, Daniel and Appellee deposited their social security checks into this account. They also deposited income from Daniel’s Edward Jones account which he had transferred to the Trust, and was its largest asset. The amended Trust allowed for Appellee to receive the homestead and ten acres, some listed personal property and net income from the assets of Trust for life. Then upon her death, the residuary estate was to pass in equal shares to nieces and nephews, one of whom was Trustee, Charles R. Leggett.
The lawsuit came about because of a petition for a temporary injunction against the Trustee. The Trustee, about the time Daniel was moved to the nursing home, opened an account and began depositing promissory note payments the Trustee owed to Daniel. This account triggered a probate upon Daniel’s death because Trustee opened this account in Daniel’s name. I might add that was a rather stupid thing to do in my opinion. A probate could have easily been avoided.
The wife alleged that by doing this, Trustee was interfering with and manipulating the otherwise joint tenancy funds, not owned by Trust. The trial court granted the injunctive order enjoining Trustee from blocking or interfering with the wife’s access to the use of the joint bank accounts, attempting to destroy the joint tenancy status of the accounts and from interfering with the continued deposits of income into the joint tenancy accounts.
The court held that for the joint accounts without regard to the source of the funds in the accounts, or whose separate property it was earlier, registration or record ownership of an asset in Daniel’s and Luella’s names together, as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as tenants in common, shall constitute conclusive evidence that they have an equal ownership interest in unless there is clear written evidence of a contrary intent. If the asset is owned in common (not as joint tenants with right of survivorship) the interest of each of Daniel and Luella shall be his or her separate property. The court stated that because the joint tenancy accounts were opened after creation of the Antenuptial Agreement and Trust, they were not an asset of Trust, and were established for the purpose of paying all living and medical expenses during the marriage.
The situation was exacerbated by some language in the agreement that could have been worded better, and by selecting the wrong person to be the trustee. The trustee sought to undermine what was the true intent of the husband and wife. Clients need an experienced attorney for guidance when a trustee is selected.
An experienced lawyer, such as Brent D. Coldiron, is aware of the laws of Antenuptial Agreements, Trusts, Joint Tenancy and Probate. An experienced living trust attorney, like Brent D. Coldiron, knows what to do for you, to insure that your wishes will be carried out. His fees are reasonable. Contact Brent at (405) 478-5655 or 737-2244. His website is www.coldironlaw.com.