Monday, August 6, 2007

Cohabitation - an example of what can go wrong

Reading today's Muncie Star-Press, I see this headline: Custody case stirs gay-marriage debate. The story originated with the Indianapolis Star. The Indiana Law Blog picked up on the Indianapolis Star's version and pointed out that the Indianapolis Star was a bit tardy in reporting on this case. So am I.

While The Indianapolis Star plays up the fact that these gentlemen are gay, the same things can happen to any unmarried couple. When reading the Indianapolis Star's article do read the sidebar (which the Muncie paper omits). The bare bones recommended for estate planning should sound familiar to my readers: Will, Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney.

By the way, this is the trial court's judgment:

On May 10, 2006, the trial court entered two orders, making very limited findings of fact and disposing of the case by:
• Appointing the Atkinses as co-guardians of Patrick’s person and estate;
• Denying Brett’s visitation petition and ordering that “it is and shall be the ultimate and sole responsibility of [the Atkinses] to determine and control visitation with and access of visitors to Patrick Atkins in his best interest”;
• Denying Brett’s attorney fee petition;
• Determining that the home owned by Patrick and Brett should be split equally between Brett and the guardianship estate after reimbursing the estate for mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance expenses incurred after March 10, 2005, and permitting the Atkinses to maintain the real estate, to sever and sell it, or to bring an action for partition;
• Ordering that $16,469.73—approximately one-third of the balance in Patrick’s checking account—be disbursed to Brett as the portion attributable to his earnings and contributions, with the rest to be set off to the guardianship estate;
• Ordering that the funds in the Charles Schwab account be set off to the guardianship estate;
• Ordering that the household goods and other tangible property be split equally between Brett and the guardianship estate; and
• Ordering Patrick’s interest as a shareholder in the family business to be set off to the family estate.
The opinion is entiled Guardianship of Patrick Atkins; Brett Conrad v. Thomas Atkins and Jeanne Atkins and while 22 pages in PDF format, an interesting read.

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