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In re Marriage of Walker

Court of Appeal of California
138 Cal. App. 4th 1408 (2006)


Facts

Mr. Walker (plaintiff) and Mrs. Walker (defendant) were married in 1980. Mr. Walker opened a Keogh retirement account approximately 20 years before the marriage. During the marriage, Mr. Walker contributed to the Keogh account. Mr. Walker subsequently rolled the Keogh account into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). When Mr. Walker retired in 1989, the IRA was worth $105,000. The IRA account had an accompanying IRA checking account. Mrs. Walker was responsible for bookkeeping during the Walker marriage. Mrs. Walker frequently withdrew money from the IRA and deposited the funds into the Walkers’ joint checking account to pay bills. Mrs. Walker was aware that withdrawing this money created tax liabilities. Evidence presented at trial showed that Mrs. Walker used the IRA funds to pay for community expenses such as bills, trips, and taxes. Mr. Walker never withdrew money from the IRA account. The parties separated in November 2002. At this point, the IRA account was worth approximately $3,000. Mrs. Walker argued that there was no breach of her fiduciary duty to Mr. Walker, because Mr. Walker had never requested information regarding the status of the IRA account. Pursuant to California law in effect during the Walker marriage, absent a request, Mrs. Walker did not have a fiduciary duty to disclose. The trial court held that Mrs. Walker breached her fiduciary duty to disclose by failing to inform Mr. Walker about the reduction of funds in the IRA account and awarded Mr. Walker $71,066 (the sum of Mrs. Walker’s withdrawals from the IRA account and tax penalties). Mrs. Walker appealed the trial court’s ruling.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Jones, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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