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Swink v. Fingado
New Mexico Supreme Court
850 P.2d 978 (1993)
In 1964 and 1969, Henry Fingado (debtor) and Valetta Fingado (defendant), who were married, acquired two land parcels in New Mexico for residential and rental purposes. As noted in the deed of conveyance, title to the properties was held by the Fingados “as joint tenants.” It was unknown whether separate or community funds were used to acquire the parcels. In 1984, the New Mexico legislature amended the community-property statutes so that property acquired through an instrument indicating that ownership was in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship was, nonetheless, presumed to be community property. In 1987, an involuntary bankruptcy petition was filed against Henry. A question arose as to whether the properties or Valetta’s interest in the properties could be included in the bankruptcy estate to satisfy claims if the properties were truly held in joint tenancy as opposed to being community property. The bankruptcy trustee (plaintiff) posited that the 1984 legislative amendments were to be retroactively applied to the Fingados’ previously acquired properties, which would accordingly be presumed community property. The bankruptcy court agreed with the trustee. On appeal, the New Mexico Supreme Court accepted a certified legal question from the Tenth Circuit as to retroactive application of the 1984 legislation.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Montgomery, J.)
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