Judge Rules That Home is Where the Heart Is

Judge Rules That Home is Where the Heart Is

In 2000, Natalie Portman starred in "Where the Heart Is," a movie about a pregnant 17 year old girl who makes her home in a Walmart. Judge Stacey Jernigan recently had to decide a quite different case about home and the heart. The case involved whether a modern day cowpoke's heart was down on the ranch or in town in his wife's bedroom. Fortunately, like a character in a John Wayne movie, the Debtor fended off every attack and saved the ranch. In re Tinsley, No. 09-36036 (Bankr. N.D. Tex. 11/16/10). The opinion can be found here.

The Story

Our story goes back to 1979, when the Debtor's father purchased 116 acres located in Kaufman, Texas. In 2004, the Debtor moved into the Kaufman property to take care of his father. From 2004 to 2008, the Debtor stayed at the property full time and operated his own business, which consisted of running cattle and growing hay.

On September 24, 2008, the Debtor's father passed away and left the ranch to the Debtor. under his will A few days later on October 14, 2008, the Debtor married. After marriage, he d spent his days at the Kaufman property and his nights at his wife's home. The Debtor generously allowed his adult son and his family to live at the Kaufman property.

On September 10, 2009, the Debtor filed bankruptcy. Title to the Kaufman property remained in the name of his deceased father because the probate case had not been concluded. The Debtor used his wife's address as his address on the bankruptcy petition, but claimed the Kaufman property as his homestead.

The Objections

The Trustee and a creditor objected to the claimed homestead exemption on the grounds that:

a. The Kaufman property was not his homestead under Texas law; and
b. The homestead exemption was capped at $136,875 because the Debtor acquired his interest within 1,215 days before bankruptcy.

Read the entire article at A Texas Bankruptcy Lawyer's Blog