Reposted Arizona Republic column.
Divorce can create retitling challenge
From time to time, I work with clients facing challenges from asset-titling issues in previous divorces. In a divorce, assets are usually divided between the spouses, resulting in retitling of assets into a spouse’s sole name and updating beneficiaries after the divorce. One problem arises when a divorce decree does not adequately describe the asset being awarded to a spouse and the former spouse later refuses to cooperate in retitling or selling that asset.
Recently, a vehicle, which at the time of the divorce was jointly titled, was awarded to one spouse. The divorce decree referred only to “1990 Toyota Four Runner” and made no mention of the year or vehicle identification number.
The spouse awarded title to the vehicle attempted to sell it. The former spouse refused to sign the title and the Motor Vehicle Division refused to transfer title because the vehicle was so vaguely described in the decree. To solve this problem, the spouse awarded the vehicle needs to file a motion with the court to amend the decree to specifically describe the vehicle by year and vehicle ID number so that the Motor Vehicle Division will place it in the spouse’s own name.
The repercussions of poorly drafted divorce decrees are felt in many areas, including estate planning.
The most common impact is on clients creating a living trust where the goal is to retitle assets, known as funding, into the name of the trust. Assets held in joint names of former spouses can’t be retitled.
I strongly suggest that the drafters of divorce decrees identify assets as specifically as possible in order for the asset to be sold or retitled without the cooperation of the former spouse.
From the Arizona Republic 03/21/2014, Page B05 – by Attorney Louis Silverman