I came across the case of Field v. Bryant (In Re: Shelton), from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. The case deals with some interesting issues in the area of the right of a joint owner for contribution. Looking at the facts, however, the case also gives a slightly different perspective on wealth than we've been exposed to when dealing with question of estate tax repeal.
Bryant and Shelton lived together, without getting married, for several years. After 9/11, Bryant was called up for service in Afghanistan. At about the same time, Shelton's economic situation declined.
The parties decided that Bryant would continue to pay the mortgage on the residence that they had purchased together and shared. (Shelton had paid the down payment from her funds.) This arrangement continued for several years.
Upon his return from service, Mr. Bryant found that his relationship with Ms. Shelton had changed. As noted by the Court "he came home to a hostile environment, found most of the house closed off to him and was forced to sleep on the floor."
Byant claimed that, upon sale of the house by the bankruptcy trustee, he was entitled to contribution from the proceeds for one-half of the morgtgage payments that he made. In other words, that he was entitled to one-half of the proceeds from the sale, plus a payment from the one-half of the proceeds that would otherwise go to the trustee in an amount equal to one-half of the mortgage payments he made while he was in Afghanistan. Of course, the trustee made similar claims for contribution (contribution for one-half of the down payment that had been made by Ms. Shelton, for instance).
The trustee opposed Bryant's request, in toto, on a number of grounds, e.g., waiver, estoppel, and that the "excess payments" were a gift from Bryant to Shelton.
The Court generally sided with Bryant and rejected the trustee's defenses. The Court did, however, allow offsets for contributions made by Shelton. At the end of the day, Bryant was granted a net amount of $11,565.26 due as contribution from the sale proceeds.
From October, 2001, through May, 2004, with only a four month hiatus in the middle, Mr. Bryant served his country in Afghanistan. I suspect that the service was hardly pleasurable.
He came home to find a relationship of twenty years in tatters and was relegated to sleeping on the floor of his own house. He had to institute litigation in order to obtain $11,565.26 from contributions that he made to support the mortgage on the house.
Now, can someone explain to me why it is necessary to raise the lifetime estate tax credit equivalency to $5 Million?