Brace v. Speier, No. 17-60032 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Chapter 7 debtor and his wife (collectively, "appellants") appealed the bankruptcy appellate panel's order affirming the bankruptcy court's judgment in an adversary proceeding brought by the Chapter 7 trustee. At issue is the characterization of two properties acquired by appellants during their marriage but before debtor individually filed for bankruptcy protection.
The panel certified to the Supreme Court of California the question whether, in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, Cal. Evid. Code 662, which affords a presumption based on the property's form of title, supersedes Cal. Fam. Code 760, which applies a presumption in favor of community property for property purchased during the marriage with community property. The California Supreme Court determined that for joint tenancy property acquired during marriage before 1975, each spouse's interest is presumptively separate in character. For such property acquired with community funds on or after January 1, 1975, the property is presumptively community in character. For property acquired before 1985, the parties can show a transmutation from community property to separate property by oral or written agreement or a common understanding. For joint tenancy property acquired with community funds on or after January 1, 1985, a written declaration is required.
In light of the Supreme Court of California's opinion answering the panel's certified question, the panel held that the bankruptcy courts properly applied California law to the characterization of the Redlands Property. In this case, the community property presumption applied because the property was acquired with community funds on or after January 1, 1975. However, the panel held that the bankruptcy courts did not make the necessary factual finding regarding when the San Bernardino Property was purchased to apply the proper presumptions when characterizing that property. Finally, the panel saw no clear error in the bankruptcy courts' finding that appellants failed to meet the requirements for a transmutation of either property. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on November 8, 2018.