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Siegel v. Siegel - 967 So. 2d 349 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2007)

Rule:

The trial court must set apart to each spouse that spouse's non-marital assets and liabilities and then distribute the marital assets and liabilities. Non-marital assets should not be placed in the "marital asset pot" for distribution.

Facts:

Debra J. Siegel and Franklin J. Siegel were married on July 26, 1981. After 22 years of marriage, the parties had acquired only three assets of significance: Mr. Siegel's retirement account, valued at $39,000; a life insurance policy with a $24,500 cash value; and the marital home, with an equity value between $675,000 and $775,000. The only other asset owned by either party was a Vanguard brokerage account, valued at $223,000, entitled in Mr. Siegel's name alone. A gift account (Franklin J. Siegel R.S. Gift Account) also, which was funded with checks Mr. Siegel received from annual gifts from his mother that were payable solely to the husband and stated "Happy Birthday" on their faces. In a petition for the dissolution of the parties’ marriage, the Circuit Court found that the Franklin J. Siegel R.S. Gift Account was non-marital property. Mrs. Siegel appealed, claiming that the account in question was marital asset because Mr. Siegel told his accountant that the purpose of the account was to save for (the husband and wife's) future or retirement, for emergencies, and for expenses such as their daughters' weddings. 

Issue:

Was the Franklin J. Siegel R.S. Gift Account a non-marital property?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court affirmed the finding that the account was a non-marital asset. It noted that the account was titled in the husband's name alone. The funds were never used by the husband, were not commingled with marital funds, and were not traded or manipulated by the husband. Section 61.075(5)(b)(2), Fla. Stat. (2006) placed within the definition of non-marital assets those assets acquired separately by either party by non-interspousal gift. Mr. Siegel’s intent regarding the funds was evidenced by his actions in keeping the account titled in his name alone, in not commingling the funds with marital funds, and in expending no marital efforts on the asset. The appellate court further held that Mr. Siegel’s statements also did not evidence an actual enforceable gift to Mrs. Siegel.

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