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Thursday, January 24, 2013


Your husband is found at fault for rear-ending a soccer mom on his way to rob a bank for the purpose of donating money to his favorite crime fighting charity - after which he intended to buy groceries - causing her significant injuries. Your husband acknowledged he was at fault, voluntarily explained his intentions, and pursuant to a settlement agreed to pay her tens of thousands of dollars. Months before the accident your husband inherited a quarter million dollars from his mother, more than enough to satisfy his obligation to the soccer mom (not to mention the charity). He, however, wants to use the funds sitting in your joint account, which contains both of your marital earnings. Can he?  

The answer depends on whether he is found to have been performing an activity to benefit the community when he caused the accident. If he was, then his tort liability must be satisfied first from your community property (your joint account), and then, to the extent the community assets are insufficient, his separate property (his inheritance). The order of satisfaction is reversed if he was not found to have been performing an activity to benefit the community: his separate property would be targeted first, and then the community estate to the extent his separate property was insufficient, which in this case it would not be.

Whether someone was performing an activity for the benefit of the community is determined on a case by case basis, but ordinarily intentional or criminal misconduct (such as attempting to rob a bank) and gross negligence is not considered an activity that benefits the community. Here, despite the fact that your husband was thoughtful enough to make a trip to the supermarket (to buy groceries to benefit the community), he first intended to commit a felony, which of course would not benefit the community. Fortunately for you, this means your assets are protected.

Written by:  Manpreet Bains, Esq.

For more information, contact the Family Law Offices of Renee M. Marcelle at (415) 456-4444, or online at http://www.familylawmarin.com/ --

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