Jennings v. Royal

Case Type:
Case Status:
WY-17-002 (10th Circuit, Nov 21,2017) Not Published
A Wyoming debtor can claim as exempt under 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(B) property he holds an interest as tenancy by the entirety to the extent exempt under non-bankruptcy law. Under Wyoming common law, property that is held by a married couple in a tenancy by the entirety can be claimed exempt by a debtor to the extent that the equity in the real property exceeds the amount of the couple’s joint debts.
Procedural context:
In a series of orders, the bankruptcy court held that the debtor could claim the entireties exemption to the extent that the equity exceeds the total amount of the debts owed jointly by the debtor and his non-filing spouse. The debtor appealed and the 10the Circuit BAP affirmed. Since the appeal involves the review of the bankruptcy court’s legal conclusions, review was de novo.
The debtor and his wife bought a house in Casper, Wyoming and the debtor subsequently filed chapter 7 claiming the Wyoming homestead exemption and claiming 100% of the value of the home as exempt under § 522(b)(3)(B). The trustee objected to the exemption. The joint debt included a $132,858 mortgage and a tax debt in the amount of $421,691. The assessor valued the home at $304,823. The wife disputed the tax lien which delayed resolution of the exemption objection since the amount of joint debt could not be ascertained until that matter was resolved. The wife settled with the IRS which left her jointly liable with the debtor for $114,068 of the tax debt. The amount of the joint debt was now known and as a result, the amount of the exemption could now be determined. The BAP found that the debtor’s § 544(a)(2) arguments did not apply. The BAP did not make a finding as to whether the equity in the home exceeded the couple’s joint debt as the order appealed from only held that the debtor could exercise his right to claim his entireties interest exempt so long as that interest is greater his and his wife’s joint debts.
Nugent, Somers, Mosier (Nugent)

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